Converting waste from seawater desalination plants into a source of raw materials


Converting waste from seawater desalination plants into a source of raw materials

A new project – Sea4value – will help to overcome the lack of local supply of minerals and
metals in European Union countries by using waste from desalination plants. The almost
16,000 operational desalination plants in the world discharge a typically hypersaline
concentrate (called brine) associated with negative environmental impact and pollution.This
research project could change this, converting part of the brine into the EU’s third largest
source of valuable raw materials.

Over four years, the project’s international team will develop novel processes such as
advanced concentration and crystallisation and ion-selective separation technologies to
transform a portion of the desalination discharge into a sustainable source of raw materials,which will be a world first. Sea4value is part of the European Union’s broader efforts to shift
to a circular economy model in order to reduce waste to a minimum and to harness the full
value of materials.

The consortium is composed of experts from Spain, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Ukraine,
Netherlands and Finland. They represent think-tanks, technology development entities,
research centres, universities, industrial companies and public authorities. The results of the
project will not only generate new business opportunities for seawater desalination plant
operators, but also create a new local source for minerals and metals for European countries,
helping the industry to lower its dependency on imports.

At the kick-off meeting, project coordinator, Nuria García Fernandez from Fundacio Eurecat,
stated: “Now the output of seawater desalination plants is 50 percent water and 50 percent
brine. We will try to reach 80% water and to recover magnesium, scandium, vanadium,
gallium, indium, boron and other minerals and metals from the 30 percent brine”.
A positive collateral effect of the project’s novel processes and technologies will be a 30%
increase in the amount of desalinated water for human use, which will make a major
contribution to minimising water scarcity.

Group photo from the Sea4vakue kick-off meeting, 25.06.2020 Credit: ESCI gGmbH
Sea4value demo site 2, Tenerife, Spain Credit: FCC Aqualia

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement N°869703

Media inquiries: María Teresa López Bertani