Waterise has developed a new method of desalinating seawater in a more efficient and environmentally friendly way, using Norwegian subsea technology.
According to Unicef, more than 600 million people around the world lack clean drinking water. For large parts of the world, desalinated seawater is the only available source of fresh water, but until now such desalination has taken place on land and has been expensive, energy-intensive and polluting.
A sustainable method
With the help of Norwegian oil and gas technology, Waterise has found a new and sustainable method. According to the company’s CEO, Niels Petter Wright, their standard module will be able to produce 50,000 cubic metres of clean water a day. That is enough to meet the needs of approximately 250,000 people.
“It is also expected that there will be a worldwide increase in the need for desalinated water of more than 70 million cubic metres a day. Therefore, the market is very large, and it is a very favourable time to enter this market with new technology”, says Wright.
“Norwegian offshore technology will eventually require new areas of application. Waterise has understood this and seized the opportunity. The result is well on its way to becoming a revolutionary improvement on the world’s most widely used desalination technology. This will result in cheaper, less energy-intensive and more environmentally friendly production of drinking water”, says Bjørn Aage Seem Holmen, Senior Advisor at Innovation Norway and Account Manager for Waterise.
Saving energy and the environment
For a long time, many have been trying to find a method where the process is moved under water and thus saves energy by using so-called hydrostatic pressure (water pressure) as an energy source. However, no one has been able to develop a working solution - until now.
“It all started with four experienced engineers who had worked in either oil and gas or supply companies, and who have been familiar with and worked with subsea technology throughout their working life. In addition, we have managed to get skilled engineers on board who come from the desalination industry and who will be able to combine the technologies from the two industries”, says Wright.
“In reality, we have not innovated any fundamentally new technology to achieve our plans. We rely on standard technology that is currently used on land, but we place it on the seabed which allows us to achieve savings and improve the technology”, explains the CEO.
In addition to the energy savings and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, subsea technology also saves the environment in other ways. The land-based facilities release highly concentrated salt water, which is harmful to the onshore environment. This is avoided by releasing the salt water on the seabed.
From the summer of 2018, the four engineers worked on various alternatives using Norwegian oil and gas technology to produce water. Later in the autumn, they submitted a patent application, which was granted.
After getting the first investors on board, the company decided to build a demonstration rig to show that the patent worked.
Innovation Norway also provided grants from the Environmental Technology Scheme to help build the rig and carry out the tests. The demonstration took place in the summer of 2020, in Boknafjorden outside Stavanger.
According to Senior Adviser Holmen, Waterise’s single module testing demonstrated that all the components work in natural environments. Technical risk associated with the first commercial facility has thus been significantly reduced.
“It might just be the case that Waterise holds the key to solving the ever-increasing demand for clean water in a sustainable way. If the company succeeds with their commercialisation, it will also provide many profitable and robust skilled jobs in Norway - in a free market without subsidies. Such companies are in short supply”, says Holmen.
Looking forward to going international
Waterise has also received grants from Innovation Norway for commercialisation activities up to the first full-scale facility. The main focus of this work has been to map the market and identify potential customers.
Like most other companies, Waterise has also been affected by COVID-19 restrictions.
“We are now looking forward to the vaccine coming so that we can travel again. Our first projects are likely to be in the Red Sea (Saudi Arabia and Egypt), and it is not possible to conduct either commercial meetings or technical operations without being able to document vaccination. In that sense, we are in a rather challenging situation”, says Wright.