The most common method of sea water desalination in Qatar is based on thermal technology, however membrane based processes are gaining acceptance worldwide. The membrane based technologies have advantages such as lower energy consumption; modular design and lower environmental impact, but do lose efficiency as salinity of the water increases – particularly to the levels seen in areas around the Arabian Gulf and in produced water. New membrane technologies are needed that are robust, energy efficient and less sensitive to challenging waters.
The ConocoPhillips Global Water Sustainability Center (GWSC) is evaluating a new technology, “Membrane Distillation” (MD) at both bench and pilot scales of operation to understand scale-up issues and assess the feasibility for this technology to augment fresh water supplies in Qatar. Since MD performance is not affected significantly by salinity, this technology also has tremendous potential for treating high salinity produced waters, including produced waters from “unconventional” mining methods (shale gas, fraccing).
GWSC is also exploring the development of new water desalination technologies that use renewable energy.