With a population of nearly 8.5 million, which is growing by 2% annually, Israel’s limited water resources are coming under increasing pressure. Insufficient rainfall, natural water sources, continuous over-pumping from aquifers, water quality degradation and a growing population are stretching the country’s water supply. However, desalination has compensated for Israel lack of rainfall
More than a decade ago, Israel’s Water Authority took the strategic decision that existing water sources and technologies such as sewage recycling and purification would not be enough to sustain the country’s fast increasing water demand. A national plan was drawn up for a network of desalination plants along the Mediterranean coast and today four of the world's largest desalination plants produce 505 million cubic meters of water annually, with a fifth plant beginning operations in the coming months that will produce a further 100 million cubic meters.
Four Operational Desalination Plants
The first of these desalination plants came on-line in 2005, less than 30 months after construction began. The Ashkelon seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) plant is the largest desalination plant of its kind in the world, producing 120 million cubic meters of water annually, about 16% of the country’s domestic consumer demand. The plant will increase its production capacity to 137 million cubic meters.
The Ashkelon plant is owned by the VID consortium of IDE Technologies and Veolia Water SA. IDE is owned in equal shares by Delek Group and Israel Chemicals.
The second plant at Palmachim near Rishon Lezion just south of Tel Aviv, which is also a SWRO plant, came on stream in 2007 producing 30 million cubic meters per year. This amount has been increased to 45 million cubic meters and eventually capacity could go as high as 137 cubic meters.
This plant is owned by the Via Maris Desalination consortium, comprising Granite Hacarmel Investments and B. Gaon Holdings.
A third SWRO plant has been completed near Hadera, with a capacity of 100 million cubic meters. This plant, which is owned by the H2ID consortium, comprising Shikun U’Binui Holdings (Housing and Construction) and IDE, also plans to increase its annual production capacity to 137 million cubic meters.
A fourth plant at Soreq, between Ashdod and Palmachim built by IDE began operations in October 2014. This plant is the largest of them all and produces 150 million cubic meters per year and when it begin operating the five plants will produce over 600 million cubic meters annually, 70% of Israel's household water consumption.
Two More Plants in the Pipeline
Construction is nearing completion on a fifth desalination plant in Ashdod adjacent to the port city’s oil refinery, and will be scheduled to begin operations in the coming months. This plant will also be a 100 million cubic meters per year production capacity plant with an option to increase to 137 million cubic meters per year. The plant was built by Minrav Engineering and Spanish company SADYT. In the coming year, a tender will be published for a sixth plant in Northern Israel near Nahariya.
A national plan has been implementd for a network of desalination plants along the Mediterranean coast
The design of the Israeli plants includes membrane desalination units and facilities for seawater pumping, brine removal, raw water pre-treatment and product water post treatment.
IDE Technologies, which provided the innovative reverse osmosis technology for the Ashkelon and Hadera desalination plants is internationally recognized as a pioneer and leader in the delivery of sophisticated water solutions. Founded in 1965 by the Israel government, the company specializes in research and development of saline water desalination processes, concentration and purification of industrial streams, wastewater treatment, heat pumps and ice/snow machines. IDE develops, designs, manufactures and installs sophisticated equipment for industrial and domestic applications throughout the world. The company’s equipment and plants are based on self-developed processes and state-of-the-art technology. In addition IDE provides post-sales maintenance and support for plants delivered to its customers.
400 Plants Worldwide
Since its inception IDE has installed over 400 plants of various types and sizes, in 40 countries worldwide, with an overall capacity of over 1,000,000 cubic meters per day. Some of the first units commissioned are still in operation after more than two and a half decades, to the satisfaction of the users, without significant loss of the original performance or breakdown. The company has undertaken major projects in China, Italy, Spain, Turkmenistan, Virgin Islands (US), Cyprus and India.
IDE has successfully installed a variety of water solutions, including Vapor Compression and Multi-Effect Distillation Units, Reverse Osmosis plants as well as Concentration and Refrigeration Equipment. Moreover, with thermal distillation units ranging from 30 to 25,000 cubic meters per day, and membrane desalination plants ranging from 1,000 to 500,000 cubic meters per day, and some of these plants are of the largest of their kind in the world.
Mekorot’s Desalination Plants
In fact Mekorot, Israel’s national water company, has been building and operating smaller desalination plants for years, with 35 desalination plants, mainly in the south of the country, generating nearly 30 million cubic meters per year. Mekorot is currently building two 20 million cubic meter desalination plants in Larnaca and Limassol in Cyprus, which will supply 40% of the island’s drinking water. In addition to IDE some of these plants have been designed and built by Global Environmental Solutions (GES). These include a plant serving the Negev Heights settlement, which produces 3 million cubic meters of water per year. Tambour employs expert engineers in the areas of process engineering, machinery, chemistry, infrastructure and CAD/CAM drawings, which together, allow it to offer customers complete water treatment solution packages.
TAHAL Group, Israel’s largest engineering consultancy and project management is a global leader in planning and implementing desalination projects. DHV MED is a project management company with the capabilities and experience to execute all phases of a desalination project, from conceptual feasibility studies to detailed design and construction project management. Shikun and Binui Water has designed, built and operates plants to desalinate brackish water at Granot and Kfar Masaryk in Israel. Keystone Engineering specializes in sales promotion of engineering equipment, systems, raw materials and services for a range of technologies including reverse osmosis desalination technology.
Other Israeli companies involved in desalination activities include Crytec, which has developed Bubble Slurry Ice Machine with various applications including desalination plants, while Fluid Ice Systems has developed a method of installation for continuous production of ice-solution suspension, which includes Fluid Ice Generator to generate micro-crystals of ice in gel-like suspension that can be used as coolant in different fields or directly as a component in another technology.
Odis Filtering has developed a range of self-cleaning filters for water plants, while Nirosoft develops water treatment and purification systems, which are especially ideal for desalination plants, and result in water, which meets the most rigorous international standards. Rotec is running successful pilots to improve desalination of brackish water, while Advanced Desalination Technologies has completed a pilot at a municipal facility to improve the efficiency of desalination.
Desalitech has developed Closed Circuit Desalination (CCD), which lowers the cost of reverse osmosis water treatment by 20-60%, compared with current desalination solutions, by increasing water-use efficiency, reducing energy consumption, increasing flexibility and reliability and greatly reducing the emission of brine waste.
The overall government plan calls for 750 million cubic meters of desalinated water to be produced annually by six desalination plants by 2020. All the plants are being built on a Build Operate Own (BOO) basis.