Effect of membrane performance including fouling on cost optimization in brackish water desalination process

W. L. Ang, D. Nordin, A. W. Mohammad, A. Benamor, N. Hilal

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17 Citations (Scopus)


Membrane selection is a crucial step that will affect the economic feasibility of the membrane water treatment process. A comprehensive evaluation consisting of Verberne Cost Model, assessment of membrane performance and fouling propensity, osmotic pressure differential (OPD) and specific energy consumption (SEC) was employed to determine the potential of nanofiltration (NF 270, NF 90 and TS 80) and low pressure reverse osmosis (XLE) membranes to be used in brackish water desalination process. The aim was to save costs by replacing the typical brackish water reverse osmosis (BW 30) membrane. Verberne Cost Model showed that higher flux NF membranes resulted in lower overall costs. However, after assessing the membrane performance, NF 270 and TS 80 were excluded due to their high fouling propensity and their failure to reduce total dissolved solids (TDS) in the solution. Instead, NF 90 membrane which produced water with acceptable TDS and has moderate permeability ended up to be more cost competitive compared to BW 30 membrane, with 17–21% lower total costs and 13–17% lower water costs. Apart from this, OPD and SEC were applied to justify the selection of optimal membrane recovery rate based on the water costs calculated. It was determined that the optimal recovery rate was 80% where the SEC and water costs were close to available water treatment plants. Overall, this study showed that the selection of membrane can be carried out by using Verberne Cost Model assisted by assessment of membrane performance and fouling propensity, OPD and SEC.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)401-413
Number of pages13
JournalChemical Engineering Research and Design
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017
Externally publishedYes



  • Brackish water desalination
  • Cost model
  • Economic evaluation
  • Membrane fouling
  • Membrane process

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)

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