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Life-Cycle Environmental Impact Assessment of the Alternate Subsurface Intake Designs for Seawater Reverse Osmosis Desalination

The study carried out a life-cycle environmental impact assessment of two reverse osmosis plants located within the Arabian Gulf using three different electric submersible pump (ESP) designs for subsurface intake of seawater and compared these with an existing open intake design. The study used life cycle assessment to quantify impacts for construction and operation of the plant for the various intake options. All values were compared to a functional unit of 1.0 m3 of produced desalinated water based on individual well capacities of 15,000 m3/d and a design life of 50 years. Results showed that the subsurface system performed better across the various impact categories than the open intake. Construction phase impacts of the beach well were insignificant in comparison to operational phase with the exception of abiotic depletion potential, which was still minor. Nevertheless, of the three subsurface beach wells evaluated the slickline ESP design was consistently better than the other two subsurface options, albeit very similar to coil tubing ESP.

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