Fredi Lokiec, Executive Vice President, Special Projects – IDE Technologies Ltd.
It has been published and demonstrated in operating plants that the low-temperature multi effect desalination process (LT MED) when operated on turbine backpressure steam requires minimal energy consumption yielding specific desalination energy costs approaching values of optimal RO energy costs. However due to variations in electricity demand, the operation of large steam turbines at base load is in most cases impractical. As a result, in order to allow variations in electricity supply and full capacity of the desalination extraction, steam extracted from the turbines at higher pressures than the back pressure is commonly used. The extraction steam pressure of these turbines is in the range of 1.5–4.5 barg. (Typically as required for process steam at refineries and for MSF desalination plants). The LT MED process when utilizing such extraction steam incorporates thermo compressors (steam ejectors) in order to take advantage of the excessive extraction steam pressure, thereby increasing the economy ratio of the MED (decreasing energy consumption). Thermo compressors (ejectors) as a rule have a relatively low adiabatic efficiency, thus limiting the potential of the MED to increase the economy ratio even more. In this paper an approach of using a novel large centrifugal compressor driven by an auxiliary steam turbine utilizing the extraction steam is incorporated instead of the thermo compressor for large LT MED plants. The centrifugal compressor and auxiliary turbine having a much higher efficiency than the thermo compressor results in significant energy savings, thus lowering the desalination costs.