Self-powered desalination of geothermal saline groundwater: technical feasibility

Philip A. Davies*, Jamel Orfi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This theoretical study shows the technical feasibility of self-powered geothermal desalination of groundwater sources at <100 °C. A general method and framework are developed and then applied to specific case studies. First, the analysis considers an ideal limit to performance based on exergy analysis using generalised idealised assumptions. This thermodynamic limit applies to any type of process technology. Then, the analysis focuses specifically on the Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) driving Reverse Osmosis (RO), as these are among the most mature and efficient applicable technologies. Important dimensionless parameters are calculated for the ideal case of the self-powered arrangement and semi-ideal case where only essential losses dependent on the RO system configuration are considered. These parameters are used to compare the performance of desalination systems using ORC-RO under ideal, semi-ideal and real assumptions for four case studies relating to geothermal sources located in India, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Turkey. The overall system recovery ratio (the key performance measure for the self-powered process) depends strongly on the geothermal source temperature. It can be as high as 91.5% for a hot spring emerging at 96 °C with a salinity of 1830 mg/kg.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3409-3432
Number of pages24
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 14 Nov 2014


  • brackish water
  • desalination
  • exergy
  • geothermal
  • high recovery
  • organic rankine cycle
  • reverse osmosis
  • self-powered


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