Desalination Taps Geothermal, Solar Thermal

A Phoenix inventor said he has developed a new way to economically take salt out of water, and it depends on a readily available resource – hot water. Deluge Inc. and the Phoenix Department of the Interior have signed an agreement to test the new technology, called a Thermal Hydraulic Engine, at Interior’s water research facility in Yuma.

Phoenix, Arizona – September 7, 2004 [SolarAccess.com] A Phoenix inventor said he has developed a new way to economically take salt out of water, and it depends on a readily available resource – hot water. Deluge and the Phoenix Department of the Interior have signed an agreement to test the new technology, called a Thermal Hydraulic Engine, at Interior’s water research facility in Yuma. The engine, which is designed for use with geothermal or solar thermal, will be tested as a new high pressure pump for desalting ocean water. Deluge expects to use salt water from the Mexican Gulf of the California coast only 50 miles south of Yuma. Ancient mariners boiled seawater to extract drinkable water. That process, distillation, is still used today. Newer technologies include reverse osmosis (RO), but both RO and distillation require lots of power – and that makes them expensive. “We’re excited about the potential of this project; desalting is a critical piece of the water supply picture. If the testing is successful, we’d expect to see significant applications for the thermal engine,” said Mike Norris, Director of the Water Quality Improvement Center. Brian Hageman, Deluge president and the inventor of the Thermal Hydraulic Engine, claims that the new technology can revolutionize the desalting industry. “Pressurizing ocean water uses lots of electricity,” said Hageman. “Our new engine can do the same job as an electric motor, and run on solar heat or geothermal hot water.” Nearly 75 percent of the operating cost for current desalination methods is for electricity. The engine has been proof-tested in the Wyoming oil fields under a research agreement with the Department of Energy. Deluge recently finished a 30-day test of the engine, pumping crude oil out of the ground using geothermal hot water as the engine’s “fuel.” As a result of this test, Prince Manufacturing Corporation, located in South Dakota, has begun design and cost analysis on a prototype for production. Under the agreement with Interior, the engine will be concept-tested at Deluge’s lab in Phoenix. Later testing will involve hooking up the specially designed pump to desalting equipment sited in the Interior test facility, the Water Quality Improvement Center, located in Yuma. Testing at the WQIC will refine the engine’s design and provide information about operating costs. “We think many companies around the world will want a license for use of the new desalting system,” Hageman predicted. He says the equipment cost is much lower than any other alternative energy system, “And operating costs are very low; all the engine needs is hot water to make it work, no electricity.” Deluge expects to begin licensing the technology this year.

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