Techno-economic comparison of membrane distillation and MVC in a zero liquid discharge application
Membrane distillation (MD) is a thermally driven membrane process for the separation of vapour from a liquid stream through a hydrophobic, microporous membrane. However, a commercial breakthrough on a large scale has not been achieved so far. Specific developments on MD technology are required to adapt the technology for applications in which its properties can potentially outshine state of the art technologies such as standard evaporation. In order to drove these developments in a focused manner, firstly it must be shown that MD can be economically attractive in comparison to state of the art systems. Thus, this work presents a technological design and economic analysis for AGMD and v-AGMD for application in a zero liquid discharge (ZLD) process chain and compares it to the costs of mechanical vapour compression (MVC) for the same application. The results show that MD can potentially be ~40% more cost effective that MVC for a system capacity of 100 m³/day feed water, and up to ~75% more cost effective if the MD is driven with free waste heat.