March 28, 2023

The Moroccan Research Center shed light on the importance of seawater desalination as a “pioneering” solution to the growing water scarcity, highlighting the growing demand for the technology in Morocco as a resource-rich country.

On the other hand, the document indicates a number of problems associated with this technology. Such as increased power consumption and brine management.

A report from the Policy Center for the New South says that Morocco has recently launched large-scale seawater desalination projects, which is also the case in a number of African countries such as neighboring Algeria. Other countries such as Ghana, Senegal and Kenya supply many cities with desalinated seawater. The same is true in Cairo.

According to the report, the United Nations estimates that two-thirds of the world’s population will suffer from water scarcity by 2025, due to the many causes of water scarcity; According to the document, including climate change, intensive agriculture and population growth, “this requires countries to rethink their water policies, which are necessary to maintain their stability, resilience and sovereignty.”

The report says the desalination industry is experiencing a “boom” as most Gulf countries are now heavily dependent on desalination for their populations’ consumption: in the United Arab Emirates, 42 percent of drinking water comes from desalination plants. which produce more than 7 million cubic meters per day, with 90 percent in Kuwait, 86 percent in Oman, and 70 percent in Saudi Arabia. Not to mention, there will be more than 21,000 seawater desalination plants operating globally in 2022, almost double what they were ten years ago, and the sector’s capacity will grow by 6-12 percent per year.

The report predicts that desalination capacity in the Middle East is expected to almost double by 2030 as part of the region’s announced plans to prepare these countries for a post-oil transition and build resilience.

On the other hand, the Policy Center for the New South report confirms that seawater desalination “is a costly and energy-intensive process, releasing large amounts of greenhouse gases in most countries that have a very intense mixture of electricity from carbon dioxide. ”

The same source stated: “Desalination plants typically consume a lot of electricity, with a difference depending on the technologies used. Thermal desalination processes consume more than 5 kWh of energy per cubic meter of desalinated water produced. In contrast, the reverse osmosis desalination process, which is now more widely used, can desalinate one cubic meter of water in an average of 2.5–3 kWh.”

The paper highlights the tripling of electricity consumption for desalination in Saudi Arabia between 2005 and 2020, reaching about 6 percent of the kingdom’s total electricity consumption, or about 17 terawatt hours (TWh) in 2020.

The report concludes that “a doubling of desalination capacity will increase electricity demand and associated greenhouse gas emissions, and the demand for gas and oil to generate that electricity will also increase.”

The report notes that another problem with desalination is related to brine management: that is, residual water heavily saturated with salt particles that has been separated from seawater. water”.

“The use of desalination is imminent and is destined to witness a very strong spread,” the document says. Therefore, it is important that these manufacturing processes eliminate their dependence on fossil fuels; Because a doubling of installed capacity in the Middle East by 2030 would lead to a significant increase in emissions, unless the electricity mix becomes greener, as is the case in the UAE.

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