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Control and Monitoring of MSF-RO hybrid

desalination process
Brajesh Kumar

Dr. M. L. Dewal

Dr. S. Mukherjee

Dept. of Electrical Engg.

Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee, Roorkee, India
AbstractThe growing demand for making the seawater
desalination process more and more cost effective call for the two
leading desalination technologies namely Multi-Stage Flash brine
recirculation (MSF-BR) and Reverse Osmosis (RO) to be
hybridized at various levels to complement each other. This
paper demonstrates development of supervisory control and data
acquisition (SCADA) based process control and instrumentation
of the hybridized system. The hybridized system focuses on the
use of MSF reject cooling seawater to feed reverse osmosis unit.
FactoryTalk View Site Edition (SE), a real time platform for
industrial automation by Rockwell Automation, is used for
development and simulation of entire process. The entire process
control and monitoring take place through human machine
interface (HMI).
KeywordsMSF-BR; SCADA; hybridized system; process
control and instrumentation; HMI.



The reverse osmosis (RO) desalination technology is

leading in terms of market share [1] due to its energy
efficiency, yet multi-stage flash (MSF) plants are also in use
due to their own advantage of time tested reliability [2]
[3][4][5]. Hence, at this point, two major technologies exist in
the desalination market: MSF and RO [6]. The large scale
(50,000 75,000 m3/day) MSF brine recirculation (MSF-BR)
plants are almost as cost efficient as reverse osmosis plants [7],
but the smaller (27,000 32,000 m3/day) conventional MSF
plants are lagging in terms of cost efficiency. For RO plant
water flux rate through the membrane increase with the feed
water temperature due to decrease in the viscosity of the
solution [8]. However, it also increases salt diffusion rate
through membrane and also accelerate membrane degradation
rate. So optimized RO feed temperature is found to be in the
range of 30C to 35C [9]. It decreases the energy cost for
reverse osmosis process as the applied pressure decreases. In
this regard research has also been done at the Nuclear
Desalination Demonstration Project (NDDP), Kalpakkam,
India [10] and gave a clue to the use of MSF rejected cooling
seawater. So there is a motivation to hybridize conventional
MSF-BR plant with RO unit to make the use of MSF rejected
cooling seawater, having temperature between 40C to 45C, as
RO feed.

Nowadays, SCADA/HMI is being popular due to its

capability to reduce cost, reduce manpower, increase
production, and improve safety working conditions. The MSFRO hybridized desalination plant being a large application
requires SCADA/HMI system for the above said reasons. It
facilitates the operator at higher hierarchy level to monitor and
control the hybridized part of the desalination plant.
This paper demonstrates a configuration scheme of
SCADA based control and monitoring for MSF-RO
hybridization. Here, a controller based on programmable logic
controller (PLC) is considered to configure remote terminal
unit (RTU) with human machine interface (HMI).


SCADA refers to a whole system that gathers data from

diverse sensors at a plant, factory or in other distant locations
and then sends these data to a central computer which then
controls, monitors and manages the data. HMI (Human
Machine Interface) is a part of SCADA system. The basic
components of SCADA systems are:

Multiple remote terminal units (RTUs)

Master terminal unit (MTU)

Communication infrastructures: there are two types of

communication system.
communication system and another is RTU-Field
device communication system.

The process has typical inter-connection among field

sensors, controller, and HMI for hybridized MSF-RO
desalination plant as shown in figure 1. It depict a section of
controlled plant with analog values (AV), set points (SP), status
information (SI), control command (CC) with their
corresponding RTU-Plant interface and feedback (FB) with the
corresponding feedback controller. MTU-RTU communication
uses LAN for industrial/process plant applications. It may be
wireless or wired. Commonly used technologies are Ethernet,
RS485/Modbus and Foundation Field bus for wired type while
Wi-Fi and ZigBee for wireless type. On the other hand RTUField device communication may be of two types: analog or
digital. Digital communication uses wired LAN while 4-20 mA

Fig. 1. Schematic diagram of desalination plant with SCADA system.

dc current signals are prominent in case of analog

communication. Here seawater temperature is uncontrolled
variable while tank/stage levels and flow rates are example of
controlled variables.
FactoryTalk View Site Edition (SE) is an integrated
software package to build up and run human-machine interface
applications that may involve multiple users and servers,
spread over different geographical locations. It can create local
applications for parts of the plant or process that are selfreliant, and are not related to other parts of the process. It can
also create complex applications that mimic the plant or the
particular process. It is compatible to Microsoft windows.



Figure2 shows the human machine interface of the MSFRO hybrid desalination plant. It represents a part of plant
mimic where hybridization takes place. The MSF plant
considered here consists of 16 stages out of these 13 are energy
recovery stages while 3 are energy rejection stages. These three
rejection stages are shown in the figure namely 14th, 15th and
16th from left to right. The HMI is indicated by the numbered
arrows whose detail is as follows:
1- Common intake seawater pipeline
2- Feed seawater pump

Fig. 2. HMI The visual panel of the hybrid desalination plant


Feed control valve to Tank T-1B

Feed control valve to MSF (Multistage Flash) plant
Feed control valve to deaerator
Bypass MSF reject water control valve
Bypass MSF reject water pipeline
Feed control valve to Tank T-1A
Deaerated water feed pump
Non condensable gas and vapor eject pipeline
Distillate product pipeline running from heat
recovery section
Concentrated water supply pipeline running from
heat recovery section
Braine recirculation pipeline
MSF brine blow down pipeline
Distillate product drawing pump
MSF product water control valve
Level indicator of MSF reject cooling water storage
tank (T-1A)
Tank T-1A rotating exit valve
Tank T-1A exit pump
Level indicator of feed seawater storage tank (T-1B)
Tank T-1B exit pump
Stirrer powering motor
Reverse osmosis high pressure feed pump
Reverse osmosis unit
Reverse osmosis high concentration reject water
RO(Reverse Osmosis) product water control valve
Blended product water pipeline


This section presents operational details of MSF-BR

process along with hybridization with RO process. All the
descriptions are with reference to figure 2.
The seawater enters through the common intake
pipeline (arrow 1) dragged by the feed pump (arrow 2).
This feed stream is splits into two parts controlled by
the two control valves (arrows 3 & 4). One stream
enters to stage 16th of the MSF plant and another goes
to feed seawater storage tank (T-1B).
The MSF cooling water stream is again split into two
parts after emerging from stage no 14. One part goes to
deaerator for removal of vapor and non-condensable
gases and other goes to reject cooling water storage
tank or disposed to sea depending upon the ON/OFF
stage of the valves 7 and 8. These two vales always
work in opposite state.
Non condensable gas and vapor moves to venting
system (not shown here) through corresponding
pipeline (arrow 11) and the deaerated and chemically

treated water is pumped to the brine pool of the 16 th

stage i.e. last flashing stage.
The brine recycle stream is pulled out from the brine
pool of the last stage and moves to condenser tubes of
13th stage (not shown here) i.e. last stage of the energy
(heat) recovery section through brine recirculation
pipeline (arrow 14).
The product (distilled water) stream running from
energy recovery section through corresponding
pipeline (arrow 12) got mixed to the product pool of
the 14th stage in energy recovery section and the
cumulative mass move towards 16th stage.
The product pool dragged by the pump (arrow 16) and
controlled by the valve (arrow 17) got mixed with RO
product and moves through blended product water
pipeline (arrow 29).
The high concentrated brine is discharged to the sea
through brine blow down pipeline (arrow 15).
Hot reject cooling seawater stored in tank T-1A is
mixed with the feed seawater stored in tank T-1B in
proper ratio according to the temperature of the water
in these tanks to ensure the optimum temperature for
the RO membrane which is ideally between 30C to
35C but exactly depends upon the characteristics of
the membrane polymer [11]. These two tank system
also provides redundancy to the system and either of
them can also work stand-alone according to the need.
The tank T-1C serves as mixer tank which mixes the
streams from tank T-1A and T-1B. The stirrer motor
system (arrow 23 & 24) ensures the homogeneity of the
mixed water temperature. If only one of the streams is
used it can be switched OFF by downloading 0
(zero) to the mixture time setting through set point
High pressure feed pump (arrow 25) is used to press
seawater against the RO membrane. The concentrated
RO brine is discharged through corresponding pipeline
(arrow 27) and permeate product got mixed with MSF
product and moves through blended product water
pipeline (arrow 29). The RO product control valve
(arrow 28) actually controls the flux of water through

The blended product water pipeline run to the post

treatment section (not shown here).


The novel hybridized desalination model is designed and

simulated using FactoryTalk View SE, a real time featured
automation platform. All the typical functions of SCADA like
control, monitoring and report generation were performed
through HMI. Figures 3 to 7 depict these typical functions.

Fig. 3. Begining of the process

Fig. 5. Online set point change window

Figure3 shows beginning of the desalination process. MSF

level indicators are shown by arrow. The brine pool levels are
increasing gradually till the set points value. At the beginning
the feed seawater supply pump motor (arrow 1) and
corresponding valves are ON. Since the product level is low so
product drawing pump (arrow 2) is OFF to avoid the dry
running of the pump. Since no water is in mixture tank so
stirrer powering motor (arrow 4) and RO feed pump motor
(arrow 5) are OFF. For all motors, control valves and rotating
valves red color indicates OFF while green indicates ON state.

The sophisticated alarm summary depicted in figure 6

shows alarming values of analog variables and the
corresponding tag values along with date and time of
occurrence. The whole row keeps on blinking with different
color (red/yellow here) as long as the corresponding tagged
variable is in alarming limit and it is not acknowledged by the
operator. The operator can used any of Ack Current, Ack
Page or Ack All buttons to acknowledge the alarm according
to the requirement and severity of the particular alarm. This
provides a powerful mean for online monitoring.

Fig. 4. Visual alarm indicating low level

Figure4 indicates visual blinking alarm for low level of

tank T-1A. Such blinking immediately draws operators
attention to look for the cause. Note the exit valve of tank T-1B
is on work and so rotated by 90 to pass the seawater to mixture
Figure 5 shows the window to change the set points for
level and time. Operator can change the value within the
permissible limit. If the value is beyond the limit it will not be
accepted and there will be a warning. There is a default set
points, besides this there are separate recipes of set points for
winter and summer seasons so that optimum temperature of
RO feed can be maintain. It indicates the controlling functions
of SCADA. Beyond this all the motors states and valves
positions/states can be controlled using HMI.

Fig. 6. Sophisticated alarm summary

Very often the absolute value does not give the actual idea
about the plant so the change in trend is necessary. These
trends are represented as graph. The trend may be current or
historical. The historical trend is necessary to keep the track
record of particular controlled variable while current trend is
used for continuous monitoring of online fault diagnosis. The
figure 7 shows the filling and feeding trend of tanks T-1A, T1B and mixture tank. Hence, it provides a mean for
troubleshooting in case of malfunctioning.


Fig. 7. Trends: The graphical way to keep track of the process



This paper presented a SCADA based new way to utilize

the complementary features of MSF-BR and RO desalination
process. It can be taken as a primary step to make the
conventional MSF-BR plant cost effective. The beauty of the
model is that both the plants can also be made to be functioned
stand alone. FactoryTalk View SE, a real time featured
automation platform, is used for design and simulation of the
concerned process and instrumentation. It facilitate several
features like data acquisition, continuous monitoring, remote
control, online fault detection, report generation etc to the
operator at higher hierarchy.

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