Seawater Reverse Osmosis Performance Decline Caused by Short-Term Elevated Feed Water Temperature

Thomas Altmann, Paulus J. Buijs, Andreia S.F. Farinha, Vitor R.Proença Borges, Nadia M. Farhat*, Johannes S. Vrouwenvelder, Ratul Das*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The shortage of fresh water resources has made the desalination of seawater a widely adopted technology. Seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) is the most commonly used method for desalination. The SWRO process is energy-intensive, and most of the energy in SWRO is spent on pressurizing the seawater to overcome the osmotic barrier for producing fresh water. The pressure needed depends on the salinity of the seawater, its temperature, and the membrane surface properties. Membrane compaction occurs in SWRO due to hydraulic pressure application for long-term operations and operating temperature fluctuations due to seasonal seawater changes. This study investigates the effects of short-term feed water temperature increase on the SWRO process in a full-scale pilot with pretreatment and a SWRO installation consisting of a pressure vessel which contains seven industrial-scale 8” diameter spiral wound membrane elements. A SWRO feed water temperature of 40 °C, even for a short period of 7 days, caused a permanent performance decline illustrated by a strong specific energy consumption increase of 7.5%. This study highlights the need for membrane manufacturer data that account for the water temperature effect on membrane performance over a broad temperature range. There is a need to develop new membranes that are more tolerant to temperature fluctuations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number792
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank ACWA Power and KAUST Research Translation Funding (REI/1/4455-01-0).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 by the authors.


  • membrane compaction
  • membrane permeability
  • reverse osmosis
  • specific energy consumption (SEC)
  • SWRO

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemical Engineering (miscellaneous)
  • Process Chemistry and Technology
  • Filtration and Separation


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