Open Cut

High Water Recovery, Low Cost Desalination Using PV-powered Membrane Capacitive Deionisation (mCDI)

Open Cut » Environment

Published: February 24Project Number: C33035

Get ReportAuthor: Christopher Miller, Yunyi (Jason) Zhu, Shunzhi Lv, Yuan Wang, John Fletcher & David Waite | University of New South Wales

Capacitive deionization is a robust, energy efficient and cost effective technology for desalination of water with moderate salt content. Including ion exchange membranes in front of the electrodes in a process called membrane capacitive deionisation is a promising recent development. This project used an onsite pilot scale trial to assess the viability of membrane capacitive deionisation, in combination with appropriate pre-treatment processes, to remove salt and other contaminants from mine water.

A pilot scale, fully off grid and powered through a PV system with storage, containerised mCDI system was successfully installed and operated to treat water. The unit was robust, flexible and able to desalinate water to a range of qualities. A digital twin of the plant was developed which allowed for real time supervision and operation of the plant remotely, and a preliminary investigation undertaken of how to interface a machine learning model to the digital twin to allow for automated optimisation of the plants operation. The digital twin provided a convenient and powerful environment for remote operation of the plant with benefits to operator training and also allowing for easier remote troubleshooting of anomalies to minimize time required on site when maintenance is necessary.

A performance model of the mCDI plant was developed to enable informed choice of operating parameters to meet a particular product water quality. Operation at the full extent of available parameter settings was undertaken during this model development to ensure the model was as robust as possible and captured the observed plant performance under all conditions. With mCDI it is typically possible to attain a desired product water quality over a range of parameter settings, with the performance model allowing for simple selection of the optimal condition that yields the lowest operating cost.

The performance model from this work and existing RO design tools were used to undertake an economic analysis of hypothetical full-scale RO and mCDI plants to treat 2 ML/day of Big Kahuna water. While mCDI was found to offer much lower routine maintenance costs, this was not sufficient to overcome the current high capital cost of the equipment unique to the mCDI technology.

mCDI seems unable to compete with existing technology in a large fixed installation at this time. Such an application however does not make full use of the unique strengths of mCDI such as simple ability to vary extent of desalination on-the-fly, minimal maintenance needs, and robustness to start-stop operation. Investigation of other applications that better utilise these strengths could be mobile operations, provision of drinking water to temporary settlements or smaller scale installations where the higher cost is less prohibitive and may well be overcome by the much lower needs for chemicals/labour, and applications where reliable operation and simple restoration when failure occurs is critical.

The demonstration of successful operation with PV power in an off-grid setting also indicates the technology should also be well-suited to powering as needed with other intermittent power sources.


Health and safety, productivity and environment initiatives.

Recently Completed Projects

C34019Longwall Bretby Cable Handling Monitoring With Fibre Optics

This project examined the potential of using fibre optic sensing tec...

C27049Mine Machine Radar Sensor Integration

The aim of this project was to develop an integrated radar sensor an...

C29007Innovative Coal Burst System To Investigate The Influence Of Confinement Loss And Pre-Conditioning On Coal Burst Mechanism

The challenges associated with designing and operating a safe and pr...


Open Cut

Safety, productivity and the right to operate are priorities for open cut mine research.

Recently Completed Projects

C33035High Water Recovery, Low Cost Desalination Using PV-Powered Membrane Capacitive Deionisation (Mcdi)

Capacitive deionization is a robust, energy efficient and cost effec...

C28035Topsoil Deficits In Site Rehabilitation Accelerated Transformation Of Spoils To Functional Soils

The incorporation of commercial biological amendments (compost, worm...

C34036Tyre Handler Testing Rig Stage 2: Lifting Trials

Tyre handling is a major source of risk in surface mining operations...

Open Cut

Coal Preparation

Maximising throughput and yield while minimising costs and emissions.

Coal Preparation

Technical Market Support

Market acceptance and emphasising the advantages of Australian coals.

Technical Market Support

Mine Site Greenhouse Gas Mitigation

Mitigating greenhouse gas emissions from the production of coal.

Recently Completed Projects

C28076Selective Absorption Of Methane By Ionic Liquids (SAMIL)

This third and final stage of this project was the culmination of a ...

C29069Low-Cost Catalyst Materials For Effective VAM Catalytic Oxidation

Application of ventilation air methane (VAM) thermal oxidiser requir...

C23052Novel Stone Dust Looping Process For Ventilation Air Methane Abatement

This multi‐phase project is concerned with the mitigation of m...

Mine Site Greenhouse Gas Mitigation

Low Emission Coal Use

Step-change technologies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Recently Completed Projects

C17060BGasification Of Australian Coals

Four Australian coals were trialled in the Siemens 5 MWth pilot scale ga...

C17060AOxyfuel Technology For Carbon Capture And Storage Critical Clean Coal Technology - Interim Support

The status of oxy-fuel technology for first-generation plant is indicate...

C18007Review Of Underground Coal Gasification

This report consists of a broad review of underground coal gasification,...

Low Emission Coal Use

Mining And The Community

The relationship between mines and the local community.

Recently Completed Projects

C16027Assessing Housing And Labour Market Impacts Of Mining Developments In Bowen Basin Communities

The focus of this ACARP-funded project has been to identify a number...

C22029Understanding And Managing Cumulative Impacts Of Coal Mining And Other Land Uses In Regions With Diversified Economies

The coal industry operates in the context of competing land-uses that sh...

C23016Approval And Planning Assessment Of Black Coal Mines In NSW And Qld: A Review Of Economic Assessment Techniques

This reports on issues surrounding economic assessment and analysis ...

Mining And The Community


National Energy Research,Development & Demonstration Council (NERDDC) reports - pre 1992.

Recently Completed Projects

1609-C1609Self Heating of Spoil Piles from Open Cut Coal Mines

Self Heating of Spoil Piles from Open Cut Coal Mines

1301-C1301Stress Control Methods for Optimised Development...

Stress Control Methods for Optimised Development and Extraction Operations

0033-C1356Commissioned Report: Australian Thermal Coals...

Commissioned Report: Australian Thermal Coals - An Industry Handbook