IDE keen to support desal development in India

New Delhi : Israel’s IDE Technologies has been one of the most active desalination companies across the world, installing over past 50 years some 400 desalination and industrial water treatment plants – RO, MED and MVC – in over 40 countries.

In India too, the company has been the leader in desalination, having installed several plants for industrial clients like Reliance, Essar, Sanghi Industries, NPCIL/TPL, etc and municipal customers like Chennai Metrowater.

The domestic desalination plant market is dominated by the industrial sector, in terms of number of plants installed. The power industry accounted for almost one-fifth of the total plants in India in 2013.

In an interview, IDE’s Executive VP (Sales & Marketing) Bruno Escojido says Government support will be pivotal to the continued growth of desalination projects in India.

Escojido, with more than 20 years of experience in global sales and business management, joined IDE in early 2013 and leads its global sales and marketing efforts. With several years’ of experience in telecom and retail industries, Belgium-born Escojido believes in taking a more customer-centric approach and says the company’s outlook should be expanded beyond the technical side to include value offered to its customers.

How big is the desalination market in India and how has been the growth in recent years?

Over the last five years, the desalination market in India has grown at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15 per cent. As of 2013, more than 190 desalination plants have been installed in India.

One of the main reasons for the growth in this market is decreasing operating cost for desalination. While energy prices have increased, desalination costs have gone down as a result in drop in membrane costs as well as increased process efficiencies and innovative new business models.

At the same time, when it comes to treating water from conventional sources, costs have actually gone up due to increased levels of treatment being required due to increased contamination of conventional water sources.

With several desalination companies, there are many technologies now available in India. Which of them is gaining traction?

Among desalination technologies gaining traction in India, thermal desalination technology – multi-effect distillation (MED) – has become an increasingly accepted technology. In fact, it has been adopted by some of the country’s largest desalination plants.

Essentially, for processes where steam is available, using thermal desalination technology is the better option due to the MED process’ low operation and maintenance costs. For municipal applications, reverse osmosis (RO) technology is the better option as steam is not used in any form of the process.

What desalination solutions does IDE Technologies offer in India?

With 50 years of proven experience and expertise, IDE offers customers in India as well as globally unique end-to-end solutions and a one-process guarantee from one supplier – right from pre-treatment and RO, to brine concentration and brine crystallization.

With its thermal and membrane technologies, IDE specializes in development, engineering, construction and operation of some of the world’s largest and most advanced thermal and membrane desalination facilities – including India’s largest desalination plant – besides industrial water treatment plants.

In total, IDE’s plants deliver approximately 3 million m3/day of high quality water worldwide.

What is IDE’s level of engagement with India’s largest private sector company?

For 17 years, IDE has delivered high quality boiler feed water (BFW) and potable water to India’s largest oil refinery of Reliance Industries. During this time, our partnership with Reliance has flourished and the capacity has expanded twice – in 2005 and 2008 – since first commissioning in 1998.

With continuous successful operation of our reliable MED seawater desalination solution, this project proves that operational innovation, cost savings and eco-awareness can go hand in hand. The largest desalination plant is in Jamnagar, Gujarat, where IDE’s MED seawater desalination solution is deployed.

Last year, IDE signed a deal with Reliance for the design, supply of equipment and construction of a 168,000 m3/day seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) desalination plant in Jamnagar, Gujarat, India.

Representing a breakthrough in size, this desalination plant will ultimately yield a total combined capacity of 400,000 m3/day of pure processed water. This will be Reliance’s first membrane-based technology desalination plant to be installed at their facility, which has 9 operating MED units and 3 more under construction, all of which have been supplied by IDE.

The new SWRO plant will also be close to the sea, thereby decreasing the length of pipes and minimizing costs related to pumping.

The seawater in these parts of India is particularly polluted. As such, with challenging feed water conditions (more than 42,000 ppm TDS) requiring intensive pre-treatment before entering the membranes, a multi-barrier approach was adopted.

In addition, to ensure the effectiveness of the pre-treatment, a pilot plant with the same process design as the full-scale plant was run on-site, and water for the pilot was supplied from an intake with the same feed conditions.

Where do you see growth taking place in coming years? How do you plan to expand IDE’s desalination presence in India?

There are several regions in India which suffer from severe water shortage. In order to provide the vast population in these regions with vital water, desalination seems to be the only viable and sustainable solution.

The Central Government as well as State Governments realize this and have started to develop desalination projects, the most advanced of which is the state of Tamil Nadu. There are already two large-size desalination plants there.

The State Government has announced several additional desalination projects for this year – including Nemelli’s expansion (150 MLD) and Perur (400 MLD) – and more such projects can be expected in other states as well.

Overall, India is positioned to expand its desalination capacities significantly in coming years, especially with the rising acceptance of seawater desalination technology as an alternative to conventional water resources.

Government support will play a key role in developing the infrastructure needed for continued growth of desalination projects in India.

Desalination is often called a monsoon-independent water source. How is IDE working with the Government and end users to increase its adoption?

With its financial strength and extensive proven experience in developing desalination projects, IDE is keen to support Government and local authorities in development of this sustainable water source.

IDE has a significant local presence in India and has approached several state Governments and offered to jointly approach this topic.

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