Forward osmosis membrane modular configurations for osmotic dilution of seawater by forward osmosis and reverse osmosis hybrid system

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Journal Article
Water Research, 2018, 128 pp. 183 - 192
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© 2017 Elsevier Ltd This study evaluates various options for full-scale modular configuration of forward osmosis (FO) process for osmotic dilution of seawater using wastewater for simultaneous desalination and water reuse through FO-reverse osmosis (RO) hybrid system. Empirical relationship obtained from one FO membrane element operation was used to simulate the operational performances of different FO module configurations. The main limiting criteria for module operation is to always maintain the feed pressure higher than the draw pressure throughout the housing module for safe operation without affecting membrane integrity. Experimental studies under the conditions tested in this study show that a single membrane housing cannot accommodate more than four elements as the draw pressure exceeds the feed pressure. This then indicates that a single stage housing with eight elements is not likely to be practical for safe FO operation. Hence, six different FO modular configurations were proposed and simulated. A two-stage FO configuration with multiple housings (in parallel) in the second stage using same or larger spacer thickness reduces draw pressure build-up as the draw flow rates are reduced to half in the second stage thereby allowing more than four elements in the second stage housing. The loss of feed pressure (pressure drop) and osmotic driving force in the second stage are compensated by operating under the pressure assisted osmosis (PAO) mode, which helps enhance permeate flux and maintains positive pressure differences between the feed and draw chamber. The PAO energy penalty is compensated by enhanced permeate throughput, reduced membrane area, and plant footprint. The contribution of FO/PAO to total energy consumption was not significant compared to post RO desalination (90%) indicating that the proposed two-stage FO modular configuration is one way of making the FO full-scale operation practical for FO-RO hybrid system.
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