Can the Sea Solve China’s Water Crisis?

The Guardian reports on a sea water desalination plant outside Tianjin that aims to provide a solution to the country’s water crisis:

Engineers from the operating company – the State Development and Investment Corporation – say the facility is the biggest and most advanced of its type in Asia.

It combines a Chinese ultra-supercritical power plant with state-of-the-art Israeli desalination equipment to generate 400MW of coal-fired electricity and supply 200,000 cubic metres of salt-free potable water from the sea.

To avoid the usual environmental problems associated with desalination, the plant collects – and sells – the salt derived from the seawater, rather than discharging it back into the ocean. While other plants are energy-intensive, Tianjin’s engineers boast of a more efficient use of coal, because excess steam that would otherwise be emitted from the thermal power plant is instead run through pipes in seawater distillation chambers.

But it is leaking money. Since it began operations last April, the plant has never run at more than a quarter of capacity. The plant’s owner has yet to sign supply deals with three local utilities.


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