Environmental impacts and technoeconomic analysis of hybrid MSF/RO desalination in the UAE

  • Aisha Albloushi

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


The United Arab Emirates (UAE) located in the Gulf which is one of the most water stressed countries in the world. Population growth, rising standards of living, and the further development of agricultural and industrial sectors are driving the increase of water demand in the United Arab Emirates. With scarce natural water resources, desalinated water has been a key source of water supply in UAE. Water desalination, an energy-intensive process, is the main source of fresh water in the UAE where thermal desalination processes such as the multi-stage flash (MSF) and multi-effect distillation (MED) systems are the most common. Alternative membrane-based desalination systems such as reverse osmosis (RO) are getting more attention, however, such systems require considerable energy consumption through the application of hydraulic pressure to compensate for the osmotic pressure difference. Hybrid desalination systems could improve the performance of the plant and reduce the cost of desalted water. The main objective of the thesis was to develop a comprehensive review on different hybrid systems for water desalination. This review also included a case study applied on existing MSF plant in Abu Dhabi (UAE). A case study investigated the potential hybridization of MSF and RO to reduce unit water production cost, reduce energy consumption and amount of CO2 emissions. A detailed model of a parallel configuration, which takes sustainability factors such as process economics and CO2 emission into consideration, is developed for the hybridization. From the review, it can be concluded that recent advances in hybrid desalination technologies have contributed to sustainable desalination in terms of environmental friendliness, lower energy consumption, and cost-effective desalination processes. The MSF/RO case-study first model revealed a reduction in unit product cost, annual energy consumption and annual gas emissions by 53.3%, 71.9% and 71.8%, respectively. The other model of hybrid system showed an increase in the water production of the existing MSF with significant reduction in unit water cost by 30%. In conclusion, membrane based desalination appears to play a greater role in the field of seawater desalination in the near future whereas hybridization of existing thermal desalination plants can also be an option for energy savings.
Date of AwardMay 2017
Original languageAmerican English
SupervisorShadi Hasan (Supervisor)


  • Water Desalination
  • Water Demand
  • Hybrid Desalination Water Production Costs
  • Environmental Effects of Desalination.

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