oil and gas

Thermal water desalination plant designed by Tunisian expertise ready to be manufactured on industrial scale

February 21, 2021

An energy self-sufficient thermal water desalination plant was designed by 100% Tunisian expertise. Nevertheless, it is still waiting for State subsidy to move to the stage of manufacturing on an industrial scale, INSAT Director and mechanical engineering professor Samir Hamza deplores in an interview with TAP,.

The project was initiated and steered by former director of the Tunis National School of Engineers (ENIT) and former minister Ahmed Friaa and finalised by Samir Hamza.

The model prototype of the innovation was designed by the ICE Company.

Patented by the National Institute of Standardisation and Industrial Property (INNORPI) in 2017, the thermal water desalination plant (using solar energy) is subsidised by the company Solartech S.A. (promoter of the Djerba-Zarzis technopark project).

Hamza indicated that this invention is based on an innovative process of thermal water desalination and uses several novel techniques, adding that 'there are basically two main processes for desalinating water for domestic or agricultural use on an industrial scale, the most widely used are the reverse osmosis and the thermal process.'

The reverse osmosis consists of applying to a quantity of water retained by a membrane a sufficiently high pressure, depending on the degree of salinity of the water in question, to produce desalinated water downstream of the membrane, he explained, specifying that 'this process has two drawbacks: First, it requires periodic replacement of the membranes, which are often expensive, and second, it is an energy-consuming process.'

'The thermal process consists of an evaporation-condensation type operation. The evaporation temperature is reduced when it is carried out at low pressure. This process has multiple advantages, being less expensive, easy to deploy and requiring less maintenance,' Hamza pointed out, adding that it is also eco-friendly, firstly because it is totally dependent on solar energy and secondly because it can be adjusted according to the quantity of water to be purified.

'Unlike conventional stations that discharge unused water into the sea, causing greater salinity of seawater in certain sites and threatening the fish stocks, our station will not discharge anything into the sea,' the official specified.

He pointed out that 'desalinated water can be used for irrigation as well as for domestic needs,' adding that 'this invention was patented at the INNORPI, but not yet at the international level, because it is an expensive process.'

'We have developed a model prototype with a capacity of around 10 m3. This capacity could be increased to 5,000 m3 per day or even more, which is why we are currently working on improving the technical performance of this station in order to increase its output,' the INSAT Director said.

Hamza deplores a certain lack of interest on the part of the State in innovation and inventions, underlining that 'once the performance of this station has been improved, the next step is to move on to its manufacture by the industrial sector, but in order to be able to take this step, there must be a state subsidy to raise the necessary funds, except that so far we have only received promises, nothing concrete, despite the importance of this invention, given the scarcity of water resources in our country and its solar potential.'

He recalled: 'The project for this station was launched in 2010. We started with a thermal vegetable water (margine) treatment plant then the concept developed into a thermal desalination plant.'

Hamza, who is not a first-time inventor, also regretted a certain disconnection between the world of research and development and the industrial world in Tunisia, considering that this connection is indispensable, to make the country progress in all fields.


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