The Middle East is home to 70% of the world’s desalinization capacity, since there are no natural water sources worth mentioning in the Gulf. A company from the United Arab Emirates has launched a plan to tow icebergs from Heard Island near Antarctica to the Gulf (Heard Island –> Fujairah, distance 8833 km/5488 miles). [Google Maps]
Is this a good idea?
In order to answer that question one has to compare the cost of desalinating a liter of water and the cost of transporting a liter of ice water from the South Pole.
Cost desalinization: 3 kWh/m3
[wikipedia.org] – Desalination
Now transport. The idea is to tow icebergs, but it needs to be realized that icebergs have 90% of their volume under water, resulting in a lot drag, drag that can be avoided by transporting the ice as water in a stream-lined oil tanker. The idea was to tow the iceberg to the Gulf (losing valuable water during the trip, due to melting) and break it up there. But if you have to break it up anyway, why not doing that at Heard Island, melt it there and transport it as water in oil tankers to the Gulf?
So what’s the cost of transporting 1 m3 of pure water per km?
[nrel.gov] – Freight Transportation Modal Shares: Scenarios for a Low-Carbon Future
On page 2: 0.5 BTU per ton-mile or 0.00023592296 kwh per ton-km.
The distance to be bridged is 8833 km, which results in 2.1 kWh/m3, ignoring the energy cost of the empty ship sailing back to Heard Island.
So according to this back-on-an-envelope calculation there is indeed some energy gains to be made by transporting rather than desalinize, but it is not spectacular (merely 2.1 over 3 kWh/m3). And there are several parameters that could tilt the balance to either of these options.
The Gulf region has abundant solar irradiation and a lot of otherwise useless desert, that can be used to build huge solar parks, delivering low cost solar energy, that be be used for desalinization.
On the other hand, the oil-tanker, or water-tanker rather, can be equipped with huge sails to save on fossil fuel.
Tentative conclusion: yes transporting ice-water from the Antarctic could compete with local desalinization of sea water, but it is difficult to identify which method will prevail in the end. Technology will decide.
[theguardian.com] – Peak salt: is the desalination dream over for the Gulf states?
[amazon.com] – Filling the Empty Quarter: Declaring a Green Jihad On the Desert
There is nothing against towing icebergs to Dubai. It is a matter of offsetting the towing costs against the cost of desalinization. The Middle East has 70% of the world’s desalinization capacity.
Israel & Jordan need water and decided to implement a decades old plan, namely to transport water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea via a canal.
[wikipedia.org] – Dead Sea Canal
[source] Dead Sea from Masada.
[spiegel.de] – Megakanal vom Roten Meer: Das Tote Meer wird wiederbelebt
Two new studies show that the world’s population is consuming groundwater at a rapid pace even without knowing when it might run out. Satellite data revealed that a third of the world’s largest groundwater basins are in extreme distress. However, it is difficult to say how much water still remains in them.
[valuewalk.com] – World’s Groundwater Draining At Alarming Rate
January was the driest in California since record-keeping began in 1895. Groundwater and snowpack levels are at all-time lows… As difficult as it may be to face, the simple fact is that California is running out of water — and the problem started before our current drought… Right now the state has only about one year of water supply left in its reservoirs, and our strategic backup supply, groundwater, is rapidly disappearing… First, immediate mandatory water rationing should be authorized across all of the state’s water sectors… A recent Field Poll showed that 94% of Californians surveyed believe that the drought is serious, and that one-third support mandatory rationing.
Jay Famiglietti is the senior water scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory/Caltech and a professor of Earth system science at UC Irvine.
[latimes.com] – California has about one year of water left. Will you ration now?
Youtube: Uploaded on Oct 14, 2010 Turning Icebergs into Drinking Water? It’s a common mistake to confuse ice fields, which are composed of frozen seawater and populated with polar bears, with icebergs, our floating mountains composed of frozen drinking water. And did you know that, each year, the equivalent of the world’s supply in drinking water melts away into the ocean? Why should just sit by and let this happen? Why not use icebergs as an alternative source for drinking water? This is French Arts & Métiers Engineer Georges Mougin’s dream since 40 years! At first this idea may seem too outlandish, but perhaps Mougin is a visionary? Dassault Systèmes has decided to help Mougin reexamine his project with the help of 21st Century technology. And what if 3D scientific simulation and a virtual worlds can give life to an idea that died down last century? Perhaps this was due to technology-linked obstacles and limited knowledge of our oceans and weather. Perhaps Mougin was ahead of his times… A documentary under the direction of Jean-Michel Corillion is being made to tell this story. It’s called Ice Dreams and in a few months will be broadcast in various countries. We’ll keep you posted as the details unfold. But for now, enjoy the sneak preview below!
Pictures from holiday trip to Mattmark:
Reverse Electro Dialysis is the most promising technique method for extracting energy from the salt difference between sea and river water. The method is inherently sustainable and clean. In theory the Rhine river can deliver 6000 megawatt energy on mixing with the Northsea. Assuming an ideal process, there is no overall energy effect and the process is balanced by cooling the effluent 0.2 degrees or so. Extraction of a part of this 6000 MWatt is an exciting idea.
According to a Dutch government source a 50 kilowatt pilot project will be realised and financed with 8 million euro. The potential for the Afsluitdijk is estimated to be 200 MW, but is not expected to be implemented before 2030.
Picture from the US Geological Survey (USGS). Water might cover 70% of the planets surface, but in reality oceans are shallow on a global scale. Of that water (1386 million km3 in total or a sphere with a radius of 693 km, see picture) only a small fraction of 0.77% (sphere with radius of 137 km, see picture) is usable fresh water (ground water, lakes, rivers, etc.). An additional 1.74% is stored as glaciers, ice caps and permanent snow, but is not accessible and usable.
Ocean Power Technologies, Inc… today announced the successful completion of extensive factory acceptance testing of the first of its next generation power take-off (“PTO”) units for the Company’s utility-scale PowerBuoy®, the PB150. The PTO has now been shipped from OPT’s facility in Pennington, New Jersey to Oregon Iron Works, where it is in the process of being integrated into the spar of the buoy in preparation for deployment off the coast of Reedsport, Oregon. The new direct drive system is a much larger version of that which was recently utilized in the Company’s PowerBuoy deployed off Oahu, Hawaii, for two years in a project with the US Navy.
Researchers from the British Geological Survey and University College London (UCL) have mapped in detail the amount and potential yield of this groundwater resource across the continent. Greatest ground water storage is in northern Africa, in the large sedimentary basins, in Libya, Algeria and Chad. The amount of storage in those basins is equivalent to 75m thickness of water across that area, which is huge… With careful exploring and construction, there is sufficient groundwater under Africa to support low yielding water supplies for drinking and community irrigation…This research… could have a profound effect on some of the world’s poorest people, helping them become less vulnerable to drought and to adapt to the impact of climate change.
* map shows amount of water present in aquifers.