New Delhi: The government has taken an “in-principle” decision to go it alone to develop a 10-million-litre-a-day (mld) capacity desalination plant.
S. Kathiroli, Director of the government’s National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT), which has developed the Low Temperature Thermal Desalination (LTTD) technology, said that although a lot of private players have “expressed interest in a partnership, nothing concrete has yet emerged out of those discussions.”
NIOT had commissioned a 1mld capacity plant, in April, on a barge off the Chennai coast. This was the second such plant using the technology, after a three lakh-litres-a-day desalination plant at Kavaratti, in Lakshwadeep.
However, for LTTD to be more viable than the currently-most-popular reverse osmosis technology for desalination, it would have to reduce production costs to about three paise per litre. The 1mld plant delivers water at about six paise per litre. Scaling it 10 times would bring down costs to desired levels.
In a press conference announcing the 1mld plant on 14 April, science and technology minister Kapil Sibal had said that the government would like to work on the project with a private company.
NIOT invited participation from companies willing to set up several 10mld plants in partnership with it.
According to Kathiroli, several companies, both domestic and foreign, expressed their interest. He declined to name the companies. However, senior officials at the ministry of earth sciences, Delhi said that most of the companies were interested in supplying the purified water resulting out of the plants, rather than investing money to help manufacture the plant.
Currently, potable-water-starved Chennai will require between 15 and 18 desalination plants, each of 10 million litres capacity, to meet its requirements, said Kathiroli, and it was vital that people be convinced of this technology.
According to Kathiroli, financial clearance for the 10mld is expected by the month-end. NIOT estimates the cost of a single 10mld plant at Rs80 crore; that will progressively drop to about Rs50 crore per plant, if 15 of them are built.
Experts, however said that the private sector might be reluctant to participate because of the novelty of the technology. “The technology’s strong points lie in being fuel-efficient, and clean technology, which is why immediate cost savings might not be apparent to the private industry, ” said Vishal Das, Professor, Civil Engineering at IIT Mumbai.
In LTTD, sea water at surface temperatures of 27-30 degree Centigrade, and low pressure, is drawn, converted into vapour,and condensed into potable water, by mixing with cold water (9 degree centigrade) from depths of 600 metres.