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Desalination 139 (2001) 115123

Operating experience of the Dhekelia seawater desalination plant

Olga Villa Sallangos*, Evangelos Kantilaftis

Caramondani Desalination Plants Ltd., 11 Mnasiades Street 1065, P.O. Box 27156, 1642 Nicosia, Cyprus
Tel. +357 (4) 722860; Fax +357 (4) 722863; e-mail:

Received 12 February 2001; accepted 26 February 2001


The Dhekelia Desalination Plant at Larnaca, Cyprus, includes eight 5,000 m/d seawater reverse osmosis
desalination units operating with Mediterranean seawater with a TDS content of 41,500 ppm from an open sea-intake
at a water temperature range of 17 to 32C. The plant has been in operation for forty six months. Due to the difficulties
encountered during the first months of operation many trial run tests and pilot tests have been carried out. This paper
outlines the operating experience with different pre-treatment chemicals, filter media types, and cleaning chemicals,
describes their effect on the performance of the seawater RO membranes and compares fouling incidence. This study
also describes the experience encountered on different operating feed SDIs and why it has been decided to operate at
higher SDIs/less pre-treatment chemicals vs. lower SDIs/higher pre-treatment chemicals and effect on performance
and operational costs.

Keywords: Operating experience; Seawater desalination; Chemicals; RO membranes; Fouling; Pre-treatment

1. History supply of potable water was through boreholes

and springs. In 1974 after the construction of the
Provision of adequate quantities of drinking
first major dam the first Surface water treatment
water in the island of Cyprus, located in the
works was put into operation and today there are
eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, has always
five of these plants. However, the limited average
been of a major concern. Up to 1974 the only
__________________________ annual rainfall of 500 mm, and its even declining
*Corresponding author.
tendency in the past two decades, leading to

Presented at the European Conference on Desalination and the Environment: Water Shortage, Lemesos, Cyprus,
2831 May 2001.

0011-9164/01/$ See front matter 2001 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved
116 O.V. Sallangos, E. Kantilaftis / Desalination 139 (2001) 115123

extremely low water levels in the reservoirs and membrane fouling. Upstream from the CFs the
dams, could not compensate for the population water is in-line acidified for pH control and
expansion, the industrial and agricultural dosed with antiscalant to prevent scaling on the
development and the increase of tourist inflow to membranes. Downstream from the CFs the sea-
the island. The measurements of decreased water water is dosed with sodium bisulphite (SBS) to
supply for agricultural purposes, interrupted prevent attack of the reverse osmosis (RO)
supply to the community houses and the general membranes by the residual chlorine in the pre-
public awareness campaign could not alleviate treated water. Seawater is then pumped to the
the problem. The Government, in view of the RO membranes at an approximate pressure of 82
tremendous economical impact of the water bar. Final remineralization with CO2/lime and
shortage to the industrial, agricultural and tourism disinfection takes place in the outlet of the product
development of the country decided in the late water tank and in the line upstream from the
80s to implement, through the Ministry of Water Development Departments tank, res-
Agriculture, Natural Resources and the Environ- pectively.
ment, and its Water Development Department, a
new potable water policy and to that effect gave
2.2. Processes adjustment and optimization
the go ahead to start feasibility studies for new
water works to cover the water shortage. During the first two years of operation many
The feasibility study indicated the need for trial run tests and pilot tests were carried out and
the construction of desalination units, an inter- as a result of these an optimization program of
national invitation to tenders was announced, the the plant operation took place as can be seen
bid was awarded in January 1996 and in April below.
1997 Dhekelia Desalination Plant (DDP),
located at the South East end of the island,
2.2.1. Prechlorination
commenced its operation with an initial capacity
of 20,000 m/d which was soon increased to Prechlorination was performed continuously
40,000 m/d. for the first five months of operation after which,
and in light of the 1997 IDA World Congress
findings of severe biological fouling problems
2. Basic process and process optimisation associated with continuous chlorine dosification,
it was decided to apply intermittent chlorination.
2.1. Projected process description
Based on this a series of tests commenced which
The seawater is drawn from a 500 m long proved, in parallel with microbiological tests
undersea pipe to a reservoir and after chlorination carried out on the seawater and the RO feed water
and acidification, some very standard coarse as well as membrane autopsy that the intermittent
filtering through both static and travelling screens mode of chlorination was adequate to ensure
as well as coagulant and polyelectrolyte addition membrane protection from biological fouling.
is pumped to the gravity Dual Media Filters From these tests it was also found that most of
(DMFs) for a first removal of suspended solids the chlorine consumption takes place at the
and colloids. The filtered water is collected in an DMFs and some at the filtered water tank.
underground tank and then pumped through 5- The transition from the continuous to the
micron cartridge filters (CFs) to ensure the com- intermittent chlorination was gradual, starting
plete removal of all suspended solids larger than from dosing every other day for 8 to 24 h then to
5 micron and thus eliminate the possibility of once a week for 8 to 16 h, afterwards to once a
O.V. Sallangos, E. Kantilaftis / Desalination 139 (2001) 115123 117

week for 4 h, and finally to twice per month for to keep SDI readings lower than 3.5. In mid-
4 h. The active chlorine level adequate for system September 1998 a new series of tests commenced
protection was defined to 1.5 ppm. So far the in which the ferric chloride dosing was reintro-
membranes did not suffer from biological fouling. duced to the system. This time different ferric
Cleaning schemes with sanitising agents did not chloride dosing points were tried with various
show any improvement on the membrane per- seawater pH (6.6 to 7.2) as well as ferric chloride
formance. pre dilution.
As a consequence of this, the sodium Although ferric dosing (prediluted or not) did
bisulphite consumption considerably decreased not significantly improve SDI, from these tests it
since now it is dosed only during the chlorine was verified that the optimum pH for DDP sea-
addition period. water and for optimum coagulation/flocculation
is 7.2. Later on it was noticed that the drop of the
seawater temperature in late autumn 1998 caused
2.2.2. Coagulation
a decrease of the SDI and so it is believed that
For aiding the DMFs performance and thus the sudden increase in their values from April to
improving the feed water quality both ferric September was a direct result of high temp-
chloride (40%) and polyelectrolyte were dosed eratures.
with initial concentrations of 56 ppm and Pilot tests were also performed using different
0.35 ppm respectively according to the Jartest filter media and different chemicals at various
results obtained previously. Although feedwater concentrations. And so Jelcleer, various sand-
SDI was about 3.0 (see Fig. 3) and only 0.01 ppm anthracite media, potassium permanganate in
iron content was found in the feedwater, dosages combination with SBS and ferric chloride at
of ferric chloride and polyelectrolyte were gra- different concentrations with or without poly-
dually reduced to 3 ppm and 0 ppm respectively electrolyte were used. Potassium permanganate
giving SDI values below 2.0. After six months of with SBS although initially appeared to be very
operation, it was decided to restart the poly- effective on SDIs, once the filter media were
electrolyte addition and to completely stop ferric saturated it could not prevent the rapid increase
chloride dosing since it was suspected that the of the SDI values. Most effective of all was
combination of some iron, not completely found to be the combination of ferric and poly-
removed by the DMFs, was reacting with the electrolyte at concentrations of 2.5 and 0.3
antiscalant and the compound formed was respectively. However, this combination caused
endangering the membranes performance (See a very rapid increase of DP across the RO trains
section 2.2.4). Polyelectrolyte dosing levels after and thus it was decided to work with worse SDIs
different trials were defined to 0.5 ppm. However, (still below 3.0) rather than having to perform
from April 1998 SDIs, although with values still membrane chemical cleanings at a higher fre-
below 3, started increasing again even though quency.
polyelectrolyte dosing levels were not altered. A
new series of tests began in which poly dosages
2.2.3. Sulphuric acid addition
varied from as high as 0.7 to 0 ppm. During the
period of zero poly addition SDIs did not At commencement of the plant operation
improve at all and RO trains differential pressure sulphuric acid dosing was set to a pH level of 6.7
(DP) increased with much higher than usual to 7.0 for the raw seawater and 6.4 to 6.6 for the
rates. The optimum polyelectrolyte level was RO feedwater. Later on (end of February 1998)
found to be 0.3 ppm and even that was not able pH for raw seawater was set to 7.2 as this seemed
118 O.V. Sallangos, E. Kantilaftis / Desalination 139 (2001) 115123

Fig. 1. Average flow per RO stack. Fig. 2. Average conductivity.

Fig. 3. SDIs.
Fig. 4. Operational costs.

Fig. 6. Plant availability. Feb 98 plant availability

corresponds to general plant shutdown required for
Fig. 5. Energy consumption. extension from 20,000 m/d to 40,000 m/d.
O.V. Sallangos, E. Kantilaftis / Desalination 139 (2001) 115123 119

to be the optimum value for the DMF per- 2.2.6. Cartridge filters
formance. The pilot plant coagulation experiments
The original plant design was utilising 5-
(see section 2.2.2.) also verified this.
micron cartridge filter elements and those were
This modification caused a decrease in the
used at the plant for about a year. During this
acid consumption for although the pH prior to
period the elements were replaced every 3 to 4
the membranes was still 6.6 the volume of
months except during summer when the replace-
feedwater acidified is lower than the volume of
ment frequency increased.
raw seawater since some of this is used (after the
Later on these elements were replaced with 1-
DMFs) for filter backwashing.
micron ones leading to a replacement frequency
It should be pointed out that the original
of about every 2 months. Although this modi-
design was based on RO feed water pH of 6.9
fication did not have any direct effect on the
whereas today we are working with a pH of 6.6.
plant performance, negative or positive, the
The reduction of feed pH using sulphuric acid
increase along with the replacement frequency
led to the formation of extra CO2 in the feed
was an indication that the 1-micron elements
water/permeate which is required in the post
were better withholding particulate matter and
treatment system for the remineralisation with
therefore these elements are currently used in the
lime of the permeate water.
The elements are manufactured at our
premises and their micron rating is periodically
2.2.4. Antiscalant dosing tested at an USA laboratory. The tests have
shown a rating between 1 to 3 microns.
Projected plant processes included the addition
of antiscalant prior to the cartridge filters although
calcium carbonate, calcium, barium and strontium 2.2.7. RO membranes
sulphate precipitation potential projections from Originally the plant was designed to operate
various computer programs showed zero with 130 Dupont permeators model no. 6880T
antiscalant requirements. In August 1997 it was B-10 twin per train for raw seawater with a
found that some iron, which was not completely concentration of 39,500 ppm TDS, temperature
removed by the DMFs, could react with the range of 1824C and a period of 10 years.
antiscalant and the compound formed, not At the plant start up, 124 elements were put
entirely withheld on the CFs, could precipitate into service and after six months of operation, it
on the membranes and cause fouling. In light of was noted that even 130 elements per stack were
these results and coagulation tests, ferric chloride not sufficient to obtain the requested permeate
and antiscalant were removed from the pre- flow.
treatment scheme. Product water flow and conductivity continued
to decrease and increase respectively triggering a
series of detailed individual performance
2.2.5. SBS dosing parameters examination along with numerous
As a consequence of the prechlorination membrane autopsies from different labs in the
transition from a continuous to an intermittent USA and UK. From the test results the following
process, SBS consumption was drastically were found:
decreased with a corresponding effect to the y Raw water TDS concentration was 41,500
plant chemical cost. ppm and its actual temperature range was
120 O.V. Sallangos, E. Kantilaftis / Desalination 139 (2001) 115123

verified to be from 17C to 32C and therefore 2.2.9. Chemical cleaning equipment
it was projected that 150 permeators per stack
Due to the high ambient temperatures of the
were required for the design period of ten
island, a heater, as part of the chemical cleaning
years instead of the 130 initially used.
system, was not considered to be necessary.
y Conductivity problems experienced were the
However, during the winter months chemical
result of manufacturing problems of a specific
solution temperatures reached values of as low
batch of bundles. These defects led to cracks
as 16C which are inadequate for the chemical
on the bundles tube sheet. The specific series
cleaning type used. For the specific chemical
bundles are being gradually taken out of
cleanings used at DDP, best results are obtained
for chemical solution temperatures of above
y Organic compounds were believed to be part
29C and thus a heating system was added to the
of the membrane performance deterioration
chemical cleaning unit.
problems. These compounds are believed to
originate from the reaction of the cationic
antiscalant used with feed water iron that 2.2.10. DMF backwashing
could come from the ferric chloride. Even
though this was never demonstrated by the DMF backwashing optimisation program
laboratories it was confirmed by tests required more testing than any other plant process
performed on the test rig at DDP. Today, as SDIs were affected by the backwashing
organics are believed to be the major mem- sequence. Different times and types of
brane foulant, an assumption supported also backwashing were put into operation including
by the fact that successful chemical cleanings 24 h/35 h/40 h/50 h elapsed times along with
are the ones targeted on organics. Unfor- various combinations of air/airwater/water.
tunately the specific of organics causing the Immediately after backwashing when DMFs
fouling has not been found through the were very clean, SDIs increased and only after
autopsies performed and it is still unknown to the passing of some time, when the media was
us. partly saturated, did SDIs decrease again. Based
y Although, as projected by Dupont, 150 per- on the above the backwashing frequency is
meators would be adequate to abide with the currently set at every 40 h with the following
contract requirements for product water flow sequence:
and conductivity, today the plant is operated y Backwashing with air for 4 min
with an average number of 176 permeators y Backwashing with water for 7 min
per stack.
A water surface-flushing step was included in
the backwashing sequence, where the filter inlet
2.2.8. High pressure units valve opens while the filter backwash valve
No modifications have been carried out on remains open in order to completely remove the
these units. The projected and guaranteed specific dirt that remained after water backwashing.
energy consumption for these units was 4.42
kWh/m. Currently values of approximately 4.7
kWh/m are obtained and as a result of a 2.2.11. Post-treatment
feasibility study on energy recovery turbines The initial lime saturator design did not
(reverse centrifugal pump type) modification to provide sufficient contact time of water with lime
pressure exchangers is underway. leading to lower than expected total hardness of
O.V. Sallangos, E. Kantilaftis / Desalination 139 (2001) 115123 121

the final water as well as higher turbidities. In 2.2.13. Frequency converters

order to reduce the upflow velocity and to
Frequency converters were installed at the
increase the retention time of lime saturation
raw seawater pumps so as to optimise the pump
process and thus the water saturation level with
operating performance. This modification gives
lime, a new saturator was installed in parallel
the opportunity to operate certain number of
using lamella plates. Its use caused product water
pumps as required by the system based on flow
hardness and turbitity to increase and decrease

2.2.12. Protection against oil leakages 3. Cleaning history

Two oil protection devices have been Over the first four-year period of the plant
installed: One oil detector located at the sea operation a series of chemical cleanings have
intake system, offshore, which will alarm the been performed as well as pilot plant testings to
operators in the event of floating oil slick being establish the best chemicals and methods for
detected, and the second, an oil analyzer located restoring the membrane performance as close as
at the seawater intake sand trap, onshore, which possible to its original levels.
will stop the plant automatically in the event that For this purpose a wide range of chemicals
dissolved oil is detected. were used, a list of which, as well as their area of
application, is given in Table 1.

Table 1
Dhekelia desalination chemical cleanings

Cleaning solution Foulants Metal Inorganic Biological Organics Silica Results at

sparsely oxides colloids(silt) matter Dhekelia D.P.
inorganic salts
2.5% (w) citric acid pH 4.0 Effective Effective Effective Not effective
0.50.75% (w) P3Ultrasil 53 Effective Not effective
pH 10.8-11.0(w/NaOH)
0.20.25% Na2S2O4 Effective Preferred Some effect on
NaOCl, 140 g/m active Cl2 Effective Effective Not effective
PH 11.512.0 (w/NaOH)
1.0% (W) NaHMP Effective Effective Effective Not effective
0.15% (w) Na percarbonate Preferred Effective Effective Effective Very effective
0.120.13% (w) NaDBS pH
0.51.0% (w) Permaclean 67 Effective Effective Not effective
pH 10.511.0 (w/NaOH)
Sodium carbonate Not effective
High pHNaOH PH 11.7 Prefitted Very little effect
122 O.V. Sallangos, E. Kantilaftis / Desalination 139 (2001) 115123

Table 2
Test rig performed chemical cleanings

Cleaning solution Concentration, % Results of chemical cleaning + PTB

Qout increment, % Dp decrease, bar Conductivity
Na percarbonate +NaDBS 0.15, 0.12 +5.0 0.4 Good
Na percarbonate+ NaDBS brine to feed 0.15, 0.12 1.3 0 Not good
Na percarbonate + NaDBS + NaOCl 0.1, 0.2, 5.3 0 1.0 Not good
Na percarbonate + NaDBS + NaOCl 0.15, 0.12, 2.8 0.7 +1.0 ?
Na percarbonate + NaDBS + Rover 0.15, 0.12, 2.7 +5.17 2.0 Good
Na percarbonate + NaDBS + Na2SO4 0.06, 0.12, 2.7 +3.3 1.2 Good
Oxone + NaOCl + NaDBS 1.0, 0.33, 0.2 0 2.5 Not good
P3 Ultrasil 53 0.5 3.5 0 Not good
Citric acid 2.5 +1.9 0.5 Good
Permaclean 99 + 33 2.0, 2.0 +6.4 2.0 Not good
Permaclean 99 + 33 2.3, 2.6 +8.6 0.2 Not good
HCl 0.5 9.2 ? ?
Na2EDTA 10 1.5 0.5 ?

Apart from these chemicals and their combi- performing satisfactorily, complying with all
nations used in actual RO stack cleanings several contract obligations as regards to water quantity
others were tested on the pilot (see Table 2) and quality (Figs. 1,2) in accordance with EU
including Permaclean 99 and 33, Na2EDTA, guidelines.
series cleaning with superdetergent and sodium All process adjustments mentioned in section
hypochlorite or sodium hydrosulphite. 2 have proved necessary and have led to a better
Based on all these tests, superdetergent plant performance. Further investigation on other
followed by basic rinsing was proved to be the possible improvements such as ERT transition to
most effective cleaning procedure. Permaclean a pressure exchanger, modifications to the intake
99 in combination with Permaclean 33 also gave system etc. are presently being considered.
good results in the test rig. Both of these cleaners From the experience gained through the
are mainly targeted on organics removal. It was different tests performed at the plant it is obvious
also found that higher concentrations of NaDBS that money and time consumed on pilot and on
improved the cleaning even more causing even line tests pay back through the knowledge and
higher reduction on RO trains DPs. benefits of the application of their results.
The cleaning frequency of the RO stacks has Plant availability over 97.5% (Fig. 6) has been
now been stabilised to once every 2 to 2.5 achieved. This has been possible through the
months. implementation of programming systems and
purchasing of maintenance equipment in order to
ensure the minimum shut down frequencies and
4. Plant performance
A brief summary of plant performance
Today, after 4 years of operation, the plant is follows:
O.V. Sallangos, E. Kantilaftis / Desalination 139 (2001) 115123 123

Chemicals Energy consumption is slowly increasing due

It is believed that a stage of optimum to larger HPP rotors clearances and this trend is
chemical consumption has been reached (Fig. 4). expected to stop once the new Energy Recovery
However, conditions at DDP alter from summer System is installed.
to winter months being worse during the summer
period. From the four years experience at DDP it
5. Conclusions
is clear that the less chemicals added to the
system the better the results obtained but at the During normal plant operation, a lot of process
same time it is important, when ever required, to adjustments are necessary in order to achieve the
sacrifice lower plant operation cost for higher optimum operating conditions. Process modifica-
chemical quality/cost. tions however, are only feasible through detailed
plant operating data evaluation and pilot tests.
Pilot tests, and on line tests, are expensive
and time consuming, however, we still believe
As already mentioned in section 2.2.7,
that the knowledge and benefits gained through
although 130 elements per stack were projected
these tests pay back on the application of their
to be required for obtaining the contract product
water flow and conductivity the plant is currently
Although the plant is presently performing
operating with an average of 176 elements per
satisfactorily, complying with all contract obliga-
stack and both flow and conductivity are as
tions, we believe that there is still room for
The initially designed number of membranes,
The installation of a new energy recovery
was increased mainly due to the raw seawater
system, modification to the intake line,
higher TDS and wider temperature (seasonal)
installation of frequency converters, etc. are our
next objective.
Membrane replacement rate has not been
At the time this paper was being prepared,
determined yet, due to the fact that a lot of the
feasibility studies on the type of energy recovery
membranes replaced so far correspond to the
system to be installed are being carried out.
ones from the defect series.
The aim of this paper is to share the
As already mentioned, membrane chemical
experience and knowledge gained through the
cleanings are carried out every 2 to 2.5 months
process modifications carried out as well as the
followed by the required PTB/PTA post-
way to identify problems, their allocation and
treatment. Extra post-treatment is not normally
remedy. Other tests carried out at our premises
given between chemical cleanings.
include boron removal, rehardening methods,
second pass facilities, performance of other type
Energy of membranes. Should anyone be interested, we
Design energy consumption of 5.3 kWh/m would be pleased to pass on our findings.
has been achieved so far as a four years average
(see Fig. 5). Higher energy consumption values
are reached during the winter period when raw Acknowledgement
seawater temperatures drop causing a decrease We wish to thank all the personnel of
on the plant production. The energy consumption Dhekelia Desalination plant for their accurate
for the HP units is about 6% higher than the one and consistent data taking and their enthusiasm
expected. every time a new test is to be implemented.