YANBU, SAUDI ARABIA

Seawater solution.
Fresh water for the world.

The world’s surface may be 71 per cent water, but 800,000,000 people still have no access to drinking water according to a United Nations report. In some regions of the world, seawater desalination is the only answer. More than 17,000 desalination systems are already providing the world with 80 million cubic metres of fresh water a day – which means 80 billion litres, or the equivalent of 400 million bathtubs. That may sound like a lot, but it is still much too little. According to figures published by the International Desalination Association, this volume is set to grow 50 per cent by 2020 to 120 million cubic metres. There’s no doubt about it: the world needs more.

California, Israel, the Middle East and even the island of Helgoland already desalinate seawater. Big cruise liners like AIDA vessels, as well as container vessels, have their own small systems on board. What is common to all of these systems (such as MSF and MED) is that they successively heat, vaporise and re-cool seawater at regular intervals. Conventional heat exchangers would not be able to withstand the sea.

The only alloys able to withstand seawater are copper-aluminium bronzes and copper-nickel alloys. These are used in heat exchangers and in ground tube arrays. We make them in Hettstetdt – with diameters of between 20 cm and four metres. The ground arrays we supply ready-made, which means drilled to accommodate the tubes that run through them. Holes like that may actually consist of nothing at all. But that nothing has a very special quality – it gives life.

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