Jun 01, 2007

GE to Build Desalination Plant in South Africa

GE Water & Process Technologies, a unit of General Electric Company, will design and construct a reverse osmosis seawater desalination plant, which will provide 70,000 m3/day of fresh water. In a first for South Africa, the plant will recover ultra-pure salt from the concentrated brine stream for the production of chlorine, caustic soda, and hydrochloric acid at the refinery.

The $220 million project is part of a larger investment to build a new chlorine refinery in the Coega Industrial Zone, Port Elizabeth, South Africa. This new 600 tons-per-day refinery will be owned and operated by Strait Chemicals and will meet the growing global demand for chlor-alkali and its derivatives.

“GE’s seawater desalination and thermal evaporation technologies will create around 630,000 tonnes of 99.9% pure salt annually,” said Earl Jones, general manager, structured projects for GE Water & Process Technologies. “Reclaiming salt from the desalination brine stream not only improves the overall economics of the refinery project, but also removes logistical issues by ensuring a reliable and locally available supply of high grade salt for use in the refining of chlorine.”

Pure water produced by the desalination process, which in this case is considered a by-product, will supply up to 70,000 m3/day of potable water to about 150,000 local inhabitants of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Municipality for drinking and local municipal use. This quantity of water will also meet the anticipated water demand for the expansion of the industrial zone. As freshwater resources in South Africa become increasingly limited, this sustainable, new source of potable water from the Coega desalination plant will help alleviate water scarcity challenges caused by low rainfall, growing populations and rising demand.

Construction of the refinery is expected to take between 18 and 24 months with the completed plant being officially commissioned towards the end of 2009. It is expected around 600 local jobs will be created during the construction phase and once operational over 250 people will be employed. The refinery will be constructed in Zone 7 on an initial 30 hectares site with an additional 5-hectares for the desalination plant.