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The earth's water resources are becoming increasingly scarce. Many regions already suffer from acute water shortages – and the situation is only getting worse. The reasons why this elixir of life is dwindling are well known: the advancing climate change, growing world population and changing lifestyle habits are increasing water consumption. Above all, agriculture and increasing meat consumption use up a great deal of this valuable resource. Industry also requires water for the production of automobiles, medicines and plastics.
From outer space, it cannot be seen that the Blue Planet suffers from a lack of H2O: nearly two-thirds of the earth is covered by water. But directly usable fresh water only accounts for 2.5 percent of these 1.4 billion cubic kilometres of water. And of that, circa 70 percent is trapped in glaciers.
Although clean water is taken for granted in industrialised countries, circa 900 million people worldwide do not have adequate access to safe drinking water, according to the United Nations. Estimates suggest that in 2025, two-thirds of the world's population will be affected by water scarcity.
Balanced water chemistry thanks to CO2
Many regions in North Africa, the Middle East, Australia, the United States and Mexico are already dependent on the desalination of seawater. Worldwide, there are circa 12,000 large water desalination plants. The result of this procedure, however, is pure H2O, i.e. water without minerals, which is suited neither for drinking nor agriculture. To enrich this water with minerals such as calcium and magnesium, its pH value must first be adjusted using a complex acidification process. This process can be done in a more natural and environmentally friendly manner with the aid of carbon dioxide.
To add the correct dosage of this gas to the water, Linde engineers have developed the SOLVOCARB system.
Simulations for optimal CO2
An Australian seawater desalination plant uses carbon dioxide:
The Sydney Desalination Drinking Water Plant uses CO2 produced in industrial processes in order to make the blue gold usable. Up to 6,000 tonnes of this gas flow into the plant yearly. With the help of the carbon dioxide, up to 250 million litres of water can be produced daily – which corresponds to circa 15 percent of Sydney's water needs.
But carbon dioxide does not only regulate the water balance of desalination plants. Water from low-lime regions or dams also frequently needs the addition of CO2.
The biggest challenge in drinking water systems is uniform distribution of the gas in such huge amounts of water. To develop an efficient solution for the respective requirements, gas specialists use simulations, or so-called 'fluid-dynamic simulation methods'.