How Energy Recovery Devices are used to improve efficiency of RO Systems

Energy recovery devices (ERDs) play a crucial role in improving the energy efficiency of Reverse Osmosis (RO) systems. In traditional RO processes, a significant amount of hydraulic pressure is lost as brine (concentrate) is discharged. ERDs help recover this energy and reuse it in the system, reducing overall energy consumption.

Two most common types of ERDs used in RO systems are:

Pressure Exchanger (PX):

A pressure exchanger is a type of hydraulic ERD that transfers energy from the high-pressure brine (reject) stream to the low-pressure feed water stream. This is typically done through a counter-flow exchange mechanism.

In a pressure exchanger, the energy in the form of pressure from the brine leaving the RO membrane is transferred to the incoming feed water, pressurising it before it enters the membrane module. Therefore recovering the hydraulic energy from the brine to be used in the feed.

The pressure exchanger helps to significantly reduce the energy consumption of RO systems by recovering a substantial portion of the hydraulic energy that would otherwise be wasted.


Pelton Wheel Turbine:

Another energy recovery device used in RO systems is the Pelton wheel turbine which is also one of the earliest method of recovering energy in RO systems. This device harnesses the kinetic energy of the high-pressure brine stream to generate mechanical energy.

The Pelton wheel turbine consists of a series of blades or buckets mounted on a rotating wheel. As the high-pressure brine is directed onto the blades/buckets, it causes the wheel to spin, converting kinetic energy into mechanical energy. The mechanical energy generated by the Pelton wheel can be used to drive a generator, which produces electrical power. This electricity can then be utilised within RO systems or exported for other applications.


Benefits of Energy Recovery Devices:

  1. Energy Efficiency: ERDs significantly improve the overall energy efficiency of RO systems by recovering and reusing energy that would otherwise be lost.
  2. Cost Savings: Reduced energy consumption leads to cost savings in terms of electricity or other energy sources required to operate the RO system.
  3. Environmental Impact: Lower energy consumption translates to a reduced carbon footprint and environmental impact, aligning with sustainability goals.
  4. Extended Membrane Life: The more efficient use of energy can contribute to a more stable operating pressure, potentially extending the life of RO membranes.
  5. Compliance with Regulations: In some regions, there may be regulations or incentives related to energy efficiency. Using ERDs can help in compliance with such requirements.

When selecting an energy recovery device for a specific RO system, considerations should include the system’s size, operating conditions, and the nature of the feed water. Proper sizing and integration are crucial for maximising the benefits of these devices in a given RO application.