Home Articles Adelaide Desalination Plant, Australia – Technology tackles potable water problem

Adelaide Desalination Plant, Australia – Technology tackles potable water problem

In a 2009 interview with The Guardian, David Winderlich, a South Australian Member of Parliament, spelled out the crisis facing the people of Adelaide and areas that rely on water from the country’s biggest river, the Murray.

“Another dry year will deplete our reservoirs and the water in the Murray will become too saline to drink. We are talking about 1.3 million people, who are not far off becoming reliant on bottled water. We are talking a national emergency,” he said.

Salinity levels in some parts of the river had exceeded the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommendations for safe drinking water. Not only was that critical for local residents, but hospitals, clinics and other healthcare facilities were starting to take delivery of bottled water for their patients.

Due to the prolonged drought, Adelaide had been operating under permanent water restrictions. South Australia Water commissioned a 100 gigalitre desalination plant to deliver what amounts to about half of Adelaide’s water supply. The plant would help ease the pressure on existing rain water catchment systems and allow water levels to regenerate.

The Hatch SMEC joint venture was established to support the AdelaideAqua consortium, which comprises of ACCIONA Agua, United Utilities, McConnell Dowell and Abigroup Contractors, in its bid to design, build, operate, and maintain the AUD 1.4 billion plant. The consortium designed and built-and now operates and maintains-the desalination plant located at Port Stanvac, south of Adelaide. The Hatch/SMEC Joint Venture team forms the design group for the AdelaideAqua consortia. Its scope of work included all architectural, civil, electrical, mechanical and structural design associated with:

  • The seawater intake/outfall structures, tunnels and pipelines
  • The intake pumping station
  • All site structures including process buildings, chemical storage buildings, treated water storage and waste handling facilities
  • All site civil works
  • The provision and reticulation of all site services
  • The energy recovery system

The integrated team employed Bentley’s 3D modelling applications to create an optimal and highly accurate plant layout and material take-off and to visualise the plant impact on the environment and local communities. The team used the latest front-end engineering and design applications to deliver a design, technical and commercial cost estimate in just 12 weeks, a timeline made all the more critical by the situation facing the area.

Using Bentley’s PlantWise, the team generated a 3D model of the reverse osmosis process building, intake pump station, outfall energy recovery shaft and other utility buildings within the allocated schedule. The material take-offs modelled in excess of 300 pieces of equipment and 550 major piping process lines. The estimating process took 40 percent less time than anticipated. To counter the impacts of the energy-intensive reverse osmosis process, energy recovery devices were included in the process building and outfall shaft while solar energy panels were installed on the process building roof. The energy recovery devices use energy stored in the brine to boost the output of the high pressure pumps feeding the reverse osmosis units. In the outfall shaft, energy recovery turbines produce electricity and return power to the grid for use by the process plant. The solar panels will power street lighting on the site.

The desalination plant delivered its first water in December 2010 and has offered Adelaide reprieve from water restrictions while operating within a conservative energy footprint.