India Posed to Add Huge Desalination Capacities in 5 Years
Sanjeev Sharma, Head of Marketing (India) at IDE Technologies.

Indian clients and end users are becoming more adoptable to higher end solutions like sea water desalination technologies as these offer a very effective and long term water solution to Industries and municipalities, says Sanjeev Sharma, Head of Marketing (India) at IDE Technologies.

Desalination, in recent few years, has emerged as an ‘efficient technology’ that is capable of removing salts, minerals from both saline and brackish water and making it suitable for human consumption. Couple of reports released earlier this year have indicated that India has installed more than 190 desalination plants by 2013, and that the desalination market has been growing progressively at a CAGR above 15 per cent over the last five year period which recorded revenues to the tune of USD 0.52 billion in 2013.

While mentioning one of the reasons for the growth of the market, Sanjeev Sharma, Head of Marketing (India), IDE Technologies, says that the capital and operating cost for desalination have tended to decrease over the years significantly. Even though energy prices have increased, the desalting cost has been decreasing due to various factors like decrease in membrane cost, increase in recoveries, increase in process efficiencies and new innovative business models and finance structures.

"The cost of obtaining and treating water from conventional sources on the other hand has tended to increase because of the increased levels of treatment being required and available water sources being more contaminated than even before," Sharma explains. According to him, "The cost of desalinated water in India in last few years has been between 4.4-5 paise per liters (44-50/1000 liters) which includes cost of finance, plant, O & M cost and all other overheads and associated cost which is quite reasonable given the water scarcity in some parts of the country."

Technology Trends
When asked to explain about low temperature thermal desalination technology and membrane-based technology, Sharma, who has been associated with reputed names in water industry like Hyflux Ltd, Singapore & Driplex Water Engg Ltd in prior assignments, states that low temperature thermal desalination technology (MED) is a more accepted technology as far as India is concerned. Some of India's largest desalination plants are working on this technology. Reliance (160 MLD Jamnagar project), Essar (65 MLD Vadinar project), Nuclear Power Corp of India (11 MLD MVC project) and Sanghi Cement (6.5 MLD project) are some of the projects based on multiple effect technology. Currently, Reliance Industries is constructing a MED-based plant at their Jamnagar complex for a size of 72 MLD. The project has been ordered to IDE Technologies and is expected to be online in 2015-2016. "Membrane-based technology in last few years has been gaining an edge all over world and in India too. One of the main selection criteria for thermal or RO technology is availability of low pressure steam. For any process, oil and gas or other industry, where in steam is available, it is better to use thermal (MED) technology because of low operation and maintenance cost of the MED process. For Municipal applications, however, it is recommended to use RO technology which does not use steam/heat in any form in the process," Sharma elucidates further.

Scope for Huge Capacities
Desalination water technology is widely used in water scarce states such as Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, and Rajasthan. Sharma reveals that there are around 1,100 desalination plants functional in India. Desalination of sea water and brackish water is one the oldest, most feasible and identified solutions to counter the problem of water scarcity. Desalination primarily is a technology used to convert high saline water (sea water for example) into potable/process applications and its usage is limited mainly to states having a large coastal line. “Gujarat, Tamilnadu, AP, Kerala, Maharashtra are main states which have seen desalination plants coming up in a big way and this trend will continue in the future, rather will be manifold," Sharma predicts. He further says that landlocked states like Punjab, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and others will not have any such desalination plants. Tamilnadu has recently announced 4 large size sea water desalination technology projects ranging from 400 MLD, 150 MLD to 100 MLD and this shows a clear increase in acceptance of SW Desalination technology as an alternative to conventional water resources.

According to Sharma, "India is posed to add very huge capacities of desalination in the next 5 years; hence it may not be prudent to say that desalination has not picked up in a big way in India. India is currently in the list of 10 largest markets on desalination and will see a huge expansion in capacity addition."

Sharma believe that government support is essential to develop the infrastructure for desalination projects in the country. He avers, "India still is at a nascent stage when it comes to PPP modeling of projects. Government and political support is a must for more and more projects to come up in India on PPP basis. Ideally, state govenment and central government should have a desalination policy which can boost desalination in India to a big league. Government of Gujarat is working on desalination policy for the state and intends to have large size desalination plants in state to support the water demands and huge economic growth."

Environmental Impact Assessment
While commenting on the protests against desalination projects from environmental groups and NGOs, Sharma explains that any desalination project or industrial project for that matter passes through strict environmental checks, controls and clearances in India and elsewhere too. Further, highlighting the significance of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), he adds, "Desalination projects require an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA ) study to determine the impact the project can have on the environment. The EIA considers all environmental parameters and criteria. It evaluates the potential impacts to air, land, and marine environments and also proposes mitigation measures to reduce environmental impacts.

The EIA report discusses the chosen desalination process, the emissions the process will generate, the implications the facility will have on the environment, the considerations to be made about the energy supply, the benefits the facility will have on the community and the proposed mitigation measures to reduce problems associated with the facility. "No project is given a go ahead until the project is considered absolutely safe for environment and surrounding and beneficial for the society," Sharma emphasises.

Company Performance
With more than 45 years of know-how and experience, IDE delivers end-to-end project solutions for its customers throughout the world. Leveraging superior thermal and membrane technologies, IDE specialises in the delivery and operation of various desalination and water treatment solutions. DE's desalination solutions make it affordable for municipalities and industries in arid regions to transform seawater into plentiful fresh water, whether for household/drinking, agriculture and/or industrial use.

Sharma reveals that to date, IDE’s industry-leading thermal and membrane desalination solutions have made it practical for about 400 customers in 40 countries to create enough fresh water to meet their needs: in fact, the installed capacity of IDE plants is over 3,000,000 cubic meters of fresh water per day, thereby alleviating distress and supporting regional development. "Through continual 'green-thinking' technological advancements, IDE has achieved the industry's lowest energy consumption for all three dominant desalination technologies, while also reducing associated greenhouse gas emissions and waste," he adds.

- Compiled by Harshal Y Desai