Water Journal : Water Journal December 2011
conference reviews regular features 48 DECEMBER 2011 water International Desalination Association (IDA) Congress Written by Diane Wiesner The 15th IDA World Congress on desalination and water reuse, Desalination: Sustainable Solutions for a Thirsty Planet, was held at the Perth Convention Centre from 5--9 September 2011. The conference attracted close to 1200 attendees from across the globe, with over 90 exhibitors, 270 oral presentations and 140 poster technical papers. Topics ranged from costs, finance and commercial issues through to membrane technology, thermal plants, membrane desalination O&M, health, environment and waste management, and the latest research in membrane, thermal and hybrid applications. Drinking water, water reuse and industrial uses were examined, including the growing application of desalinated water in the oil and gas industry. Keynote Address The keynote address was given in a pre-recorded video by Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, from his hideaway on Necker Island. Sir Richard spoke about the critical importance of water, not only to island communities such as his own, which lacks freshwater, but in the developing world as populations multiply. With 97.5% of total global water locked up in solid form and only 0.75% available as freshwater for use, Sir Richard encouraged those in the desalination industry to keep the sustainability message to the fore while providing water for a thirsty planet. He emphasised the importance of new technologies such as reverse osmosis for desalination by referring to the dependence he himself has for water on the functioning of the desalination plant on his island. Sir Richard's presentation was followed by a Plenary led by Sue Murphy, CEO of Water Corporation, principal conference sponsor and the first Australian water utility to commit to large-scale desalination supply. Ms Murphy summarised the Australian experience with desalination as new benchmarks for environmental performance having been set, reducing impact of intakes and outfalls, and plant location. Carbon footprint has also been significantly reduced by extensive purchase of wind-powered renewable energy to offset energy consumed. Last year, the plant contributed 52 megalitres (ML) of desalted water to Perth's supplies, well beyond its contracted capacity of 45 ML/year. Commercial Issues Session The main thread shared by papers in this session was that project financing, particularly in current markets, has become difficult and the industry needs to be prepared to face new and more stringent rules in project financing and delivery. Increasing privatisation in desalination and water reuse has been a key element to the booming developments that have been observed in the last decade, and has contributed to diversifying the technology and identifying correct trade-offs between reliability, technical risks and price competitiveness. A useful paper delivered by Rob Huehmer: Cost Modeling of Desalination Systems (authors: Kenneth Moore, Robert Huehmer, Juan Gomez and Jason Curl) identified several commercially available and/or non-proprietary desalination cost models currently in the desalination market. The cost models most frequently quoted in the grey literature are WTCost©, and cost curves contained the publication entitled Desalting Handbook for Planners. Other models described include Global Water Intelligence Desalination SWRO Cost Estimator, Desalination Economic Evaluation Program (DEEP), AUDESSY, WRA models and the Kawamura model. A comparison of commercially available models identified the similarities, weaknesses and strengths of the models, and compared the results over a range of capacities. In delivering the presentation, Rob nominated three classes of models -- the empirical, parametric and, his favoured model, an automatic design and cost program. His criticisms of the empirical model were that too many variables were involved, which did not lead to greater reliability. He considered the parametric model to be OK, but was critical of the amount of data it required and the consequent complexity. He saw the future lying with automatic design and cost platforms. However, there were difficulties in trying to convince clients to adopt it. These ranged from the suspected limitations to the IT involved from prospective clients, insufficient engineering sophistication, union truculence, and clients' attitudes to the use of automatic cost models. The presentation brought forth some spirited discussion. One speaker pointed out that the model was not a reliable approach for thermal plants and considered it should be confined to RO systems. Another stated that inputs are different for different locations, so the method has inherent limitations. Session co-chair Graham Dooley pointed to the key role of the client in any commercial arrangements and the importance of a positive and productive relationship between the client and participating partners. A Panel Discussion led by the co-chairs, Graham Dooley and Ghassan Ejjeh, followed the papers. Topics included: • The future of the integrated water and power plant project (IWPP); • Fewer emerging forms of investor financing for smaller-scale projects; • General economic crisis; • General economic crisis: effect of the Arab Spring. Ghassan Ejjeh introduced the topic for the Plenary: Is Privately Financed Desalination/Water Reuse Still Relevant/Possible?. He began by focusing on project risk in the context of the recent financial crisis, which has led initially to reluctance and now abandonment of long-term finance to major water supply projects by banks and financial institutions; the Bahrain STP went ahead, as did the Abu Dhabi-Suez project, but many were shelved. He then drew attention to the dislocation occasioned by the "Arab Spring" series of uprisings in North Africa, which had put a number of major projects on hold. NCEDA CEO Neil Palmer being interviewed at the Congress.
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