Characterization of seawater reverse osmosis fouled membranes from large scale commercial desalination plant
Naimi Oussama, Hassiba Bouabdesselam, Noreddine Ghaffour and Lousdad Abdelkader
The objective of this work is to study the ageing state of a used reverse osmosis (RO) membrane taken in Algeria from the Benisaf Water Company seawater desalination unit. The study consists of an autopsy procedure used to perform a chain of analyses on a membrane sheet. Wear of the membrane is characterized by a degradation of its performance due to a significant increase in hydraulic permeability (25%) and pressure drop as well as a decrease in salt retention (10% to 30%). In most cases the effects of ageing are little or poorly known at the local level and global measurements such as (flux, transmembrane pressure, permeate flow, retention rate, etc.) do not allow characterization. Therefore, a used RO (reverse osmosis) membrane was selected at the site to perform the membrane autopsy tests. These tests make it possible to analyze and identify the cause as well as to understand the links between performance degradation observed at the macroscopic scale and at the scale at which ageing takes place. External and internal visual observations allow seeing the state of degradation. Microscopic analysis of the used membranes surface shows the importance of fouling. In addition, quantification and identification analyses determine a high fouling rate in the used membrane whose foulants is of inorganic and organic nature. Moreover, the analyses proved the presence of a biofilm composed of protein.