Life cycle cost of a hybrid forward osmosis - low pressure reverse osmosis system for seawater desalination and wastewater recovery

Water Res. 2016 Jan 1:88:225-234. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2015.10.017. Epub 2015 Oct 19.


In recent years, forward osmosis (FO) hybrid membrane systems have been investigated as an alternative to conventional high-pressure membrane processes (i.e. reverse osmosis (RO)) for seawater desalination and wastewater treatment and recovery. Nevertheless, their economic advantage in comparison to conventional processes for seawater desalination and municipal wastewater treatment has not been clearly addressed. This work presents a detailed economic analysis on capital and operational expenses (CAPEX and OPEX) for: i) a hybrid forward osmosis - low-pressure reverse osmosis (FO-LPRO) process, ii) a conventional seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) desalination process, and iii) a membrane bioreactor - reverse osmosis - advanced oxidation process (MBR-RO-AOP) for wastewater treatment and reuse. The most important variables affecting economic feasibility are obtained through a sensitivity analysis of a hybrid FO-LPRO system. The main parameters taken into account for the life cycle costs are the water quality characteristics (similar feed water and similar water produced), production capacity of 100,000 m(3) d(-1) of potable water, energy consumption, materials, maintenance, operation, RO and FO module costs, and chemicals. Compared to SWRO, the FO-LPRO systems have a 21% higher CAPEX and a 56% lower OPEX due to savings in energy consumption and fouling control. In terms of the total water cost per cubic meter of water produced, the hybrid FO-LPRO desalination system has a 16% cost reduction compared to the benchmark for desalination, mainly SWRO. Compared to the MBR-RO-AOP, the FO-LPRO systems have a 7% lower CAPEX and 9% higher OPEX, resulting in no significant cost reduction per m(3) produced by FO-LPRO. Hybrid FO-LPRO membrane systems are shown to have an economic advantage compared to current available technology for desalination, and comparable costs with a wastewater treatment and recovery system. Based on development on FO membrane modules, packing density, and water permeability, the total water cost could be further reduced.

Keywords: Desalination; Forward osmosis; Membrane system; Wastewater recovery; Water treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Biofuels
  • Bioreactors
  • Drinking Water
  • Membranes, Artificial
  • Osmosis
  • Seawater*
  • Waste Disposal, Fluid / economics*
  • Waste Disposal, Fluid / instrumentation
  • Waste Disposal, Fluid / methods*
  • Wastewater
  • Water Purification / economics*
  • Water Purification / instrumentation
  • Water Purification / methods*
  • Water Quality


  • Biofuels
  • Drinking Water
  • Membranes, Artificial
  • Waste Water