Mapping to assess feasibility of using subsurface intakes for SWRO, Red Sea coast of Saudi Arabia

A.H.A. Dehwah, S. Al-Mashharawi, T.M. Missimer
Desalination and Water Treatment, 52, p. 2351-2361, (2013)

Mapping to assess feasibility of using subsurface intakes for SWRO, Red Sea coast of Saudi Arabia


Seawater reverse osmosis, Subsurface intakes, Water system planning, Coastal mapping


​Use of subsurface intakes for seawater reverse osmosis desalination (SWRO) systems is known to improve raw water quality, reduce use of chemicals, improve operational reliability, and reduce the life cycle cost of desalination. A key issue in planning for the development of a SWRO facility that would potentially use a subsurface intake is the characterization of the coastal and nearshore geology of a region to ascertain the types of subsurface intakes that could be used and their respective costs. It is the purpose of this research to document a new methodology that can be used for planning and assessment of the feasibility of using subsurface intake systems for SWRO facilities at any location in the world. The Red Sea shoreline and nearshore area of Saudi Arabia were mapped and sediments were sampled from the Yemen border north of the Jordan border, a distance of about 1,950 km. Seventeen different coastal environments were defined, mapped, and correlated to the feasibility of using various types of subsurface intake systems. Six environments were found to have favorable characteristics for development of large-scale subsurface intakes. The most favorable of these coastal environments includes: (1) beaches and nearshore areas containing carbonate or siliciclastic sands with minimum mud concentrations and environmentally sensitive bottom community biota or fauna (A1, A2, and A3), limestone rocky shorelines with an offshore carbonate or siliciclastic sand bottom underlain by soft limestone and a barren area lying between the shoreline and the offshore reef (B1, B5), and wadi sediments on the beach (mixture of pebbles, gravel, and sand) with a corresponding nearshore area containing either siliciclastic sand and/or a marine hard ground (soft limestone or sandstone) (C2). It was found that seabed galleries were the subsurface intake type with the highest feasibility for development of large-capacity intakes. The geological characteristics of the offshore sea bottom were found to be favorable for the development of seabed gallery systems, but the shoreline geology was not adequate for the development of beach gallery intakes (low wave activity). Detailed field investigations were conducted at four sites located along the Red Sea coast at the King Abdullah Economic City, Shoaiba, Om Al Misk Island, and Shuqaiq City. Some of the environments are adequate to allow use of conventional wells, angle wells, radial collector wells, or horizontal wells. However, these intake types have some capacity limitation along the Red Sea coastline. There are several medium to small capacity SWRO facilities that utilize conventional shallow well systems (beach wells) as intakes along the Red Sea coastline.​




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