Cooling Power Plants with Brackish Groundwater | AIChE

Cooling Power Plants with Brackish Groundwater


Forty percent of freshwater withdrawals in the U.S. go to the power sector, mostly for use in wet cooling systems. With drought and water scarcity an increasing reality in many regions, especially the western U.S., researchers are looking for more sustainable cooling options.

A new article finds that in some cases, the answer may be brackish groundwater. Saline aquifers are abundant in the continental U.S., and using the water from these reservoirs could reduce the amount of freshwater that power plants need to almost zero, according to a new study led by Haibo Zhai, the Roy & Caryl Cline Distinguished Chair in Engineering at the Univ. of Wyoming.

Currently, certain power generation and industrial facilities use seawater in cooling towers to reduce freshwater consumption; however, the minerals in seawater are known to create several operational challenges. Therefore, to use brackish groundwater in current cooling systems that are designed for freshwater, the groundwater would need to be desalinated before use. In addition, the concentrated brines or solid waste left over from the desalination process would need to be disposed of in an environmentally friendly way. These processes are...

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