The desalination market is recovering now that drought is a pressing issue again around the globe. Projects will provide a steady market for stainless steel - particularly duplexes – as well as valves and pumps.
In a recent Stainless Steel World article, James Chater explained that many populations have experienced severe water shortages over a prolonged period. Droughts have occurred in many areas of the USA, especially California. More recently, it’s been Brazil’s turn: surprising for a country that produces an estimated 12% of the world’s fresh water. Clearly, town planners did not see how Sao Paulo’s rapid population growth would impact demand, and a crisis is unfolding that will affect not only the water supply but also threatens to create an energy shortage, given the importance of hydroelectricity.
Desalination is a good “insurance policy” in times of drought to guarantee a supply of fresh water. However there is an inherent risk involved for plant owners; in times of heavy rainfall their ‘product’ is available in over-supply and they run the risk of losing money. This has happened in Australia, Spain and South Africa, where there is now an overcapacity of plants.
Despite the risk, the desalination market shows promising growth of around 9% a year. Not surprisingly given its wealth and dry climate, the Middle East is the main engine of growth in the desalination market, although Asia and Africa are not far behind. In Saudi Arabia the enormous RO plant is under construction in Rabigh. In Africa, the continent’s largest plant, built by Hyflux, was completed last year in Algeria. China has a huge demand for water and it aims to produce 2.2 million m3/day of desalinated seawater by end 2015.
The high-chloride, high-temperature conditions in desalination plants necessitate the use of corrosion-resistant materials capable of withstanding the most severe conditions. This requirement is especially true of the intake side of the operation, where the saltwater is handled. Duplex grades have proved their worth in a number of applications, including evaporators, high-pressure piping and water processing components, pumps and valves.