Tunisia’s Current Electrical Energy Tripled
By Hypersalinity Osmotic Power Generation
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This title may sound to some as a commercial hype or a publicity stunt to promote a consumable product. Energy professionals may denounce such claim and declare the writer’s incompetency. The fact is, Tunisia offers natural renewable unconventional energy potential that is unknown to most intellectuals in the energy field.
MIK Technology strongly believes Tunisia’s barren endorheic salt lakes that are commonly known as Chotts (shores in Arabic) could generate safe and sustainable osmotic power that would at least double Tunisia’s current power demand and possibly triple if all the major Chotts are dedicated for power generation.
In this paper, Tunisia’s current power generation and demand will be reviewed, as well as introducing MIK Technology’s concept of “Hypersaline Osmotic Power Generation”, known as the “ISO Power Potential(1)”. Two power generation schemes will be offered to generate power from Chott el-Jerid or el-Djerid (Arabic: شط الجريد) and Chott el-Fajaj or el-Fedjadj (Arabic: شط الفجاج). One concept is proposed for straight power generation of 3.0 Gigawatts and the other for dual purpose power generation of 2.5 Gigawatts in addition to a 1000 km2 inland marine life aquatic habitat.
Tunisia Chotts lie in what is called the Zone of Chotts, which is a region of the pre-Saharan Tunisia that is situated in a series of tectonically controlled depressions that lie between the Atlas Mountains and the Saharan Platform, along a structural line, the so-called Sillon Tunisien or Tunisian trough, linking the Tripolitania trough of Libya to the Chott Merouane (Arabic:شط مروان ) at Chott Melrhir (Arabic: شط ملغيغ) of Algeria (2).
The generation of osmotic power that employs large natural hypersaline water domains is a mega size world-class development project that would mandate both national and international collaboration and support. Such a prospect would, however; have far reaching impact on the future development plans of Tunisia and the enormous future prosperity for its people and their eastern and western neighbors.
I. Tunisia’s Chotts:
Tunisia (Figs. 1, 2) is a North African country covers 164,150 km2 with population of 10,589,025 (July 2010), and it is bounded by Algeria on the west, Libya on the southeast, and the Mediterranean Sea to the east and north. It has a coastline of 1314 km long excluding the islands of Jerba, Gharbi and Chergui. Tunisia is divided into two parts of about equal size with three basic salt Chotts (Fig. 3) that extend from the Gulf of Gabes (Arabic: خليج قابس ) of the Mediterranean Sea to the Tunisia/Algeria boarder.
The largest Chott is known as Chott el Jerid (Arabic: شط الجريد). It is a large endorheic salt lake in southern Tunisia (Fig. 4). Chott el-Jerid is 15-31 meter above sea level. The northern extension of Chott el-Jerid is another salt pan known as Chott el Fajaj (Fig. 5). These two Chotts are continuous, stretching 193 km from east to west, within 21 km from the Mediterranean Sea. The floor of the two Chotts has a minimum altitude of 15 meter above sea level and comprises barren clay and salt encrusted with some halophtyic vegetation.
Those Chotts have an estimated total surface area of about 5,500 km², which will be used as a conservative preliminary design criterion in this proposal. However, some claims that the surface area is much larger and could exceed 7,000 km². Therefore, an accurate survey of the domain must be conducted to validate final design parameters due its significance on the Chotts osmotic power potential, which could contribute an additional 750 MW of power.
Chott el-Gharsah (Arabic: شط الغرسة) is another salt pan located just north-west (Fig. 6) of Chott el-Jerid and extends slightly across the Tunisia boarder into Algeria. Chott el-Gharsah is the lowest point in Tunisia at 23 meters below sea level. Chott el-Gharsah incorporates additional three smaller Chotts including Chott el-Chtihatt Srhat, Chott el-Rahim (Arabic: شط الرحيم) and Chott Mejez Sfa.
Due to the extreme climate with annual rainfall of only 100 mm and temperatures reaching 50° C, Chott el-Jerid is almost entirely dried up in the summer. The average potential evaporation over the Chotts is 2,500 mm or greater. Direct precipitation on the Chotts has a limited effect in moistening their surface.
In our proposal for Tunisia’s osmotic power generation scheme, only Chott el-Jerid and Chott el-Fajaj system is being considered. Chott el-Gharsah could be incorporated at a later date to maximize power generation potential of that group of Chotts.
Conversely, it will be of a greater significance if a new osmotic power generation system is formed comprising both the Tunisian Chott el-Gharsah and the Algerian Chott Melrhir to form a massive water domain of about 7000 km2. These two Chotts are below sea level and could be directly fed from the sea without the need for excessive pumping.
Fig. 3: Sattelite view of Tunisia chotts Fig. 4: Chott el-Jerid, by Residence Sultana
II. Tunisia’s Energy:
Proven natural gas and petroleum reserves are limited. Tunisia has moderate uranium resources mainly in phosphate mineral. The main sources of energy used in Tunisia, are mainly oil products and natural gas. Few rivers could be exploited for hydroelectricity production. But despite these limitations water resources have been fully used in Tunisia. Wind resource for electricity supply is also available and is currently being exploited with an increasing share. To meet its energy requirements, Tunisia has to import gas and oil products.
III. Osmotic Power
Osmosis is nature’s gift to life. It is the vehicle that transports fluids in all living cells and without it, all biological functions and all forms of life cease to exist! Osmosis is the spontaneous movement of water, through a semi-permeable membrane that is permeable to water but impermeable to solute. Water moves from a solution in which solute is less concentrated to a solution in which solute is more concentrated.
The driving force of the flow movement is the difference in the chemical potential on the two sides of the semi-permeable membrane, with the solvent moving from a region of higher potential (generally of a lower solute concentration) to the region of lower potential (generally of a higher solute concentration).
The term “Chemical Potential” at times can be ambiguous and elusive. In fact, it is one of the most important partial molal quantities. It is the energy source associated with the activity of the ions of an ionizable substance. It is equal to the rate of change in free energy of a system containing a number of moles of such substance.
Chemical potential can be viewed as another form of energy like electrical, gravitational, momentum, magnetic, surface tension, etc. Thermodynamically, this energy is expressed in terms of what is conventionally known as Gibbs free energy.
The osmosis process for salinity power generation is rather simple and requires few basic units of operation; semi-permeable membrane modules, solution pumping means, turbine generators and means of flow control. This process can be simulated with a simple example.
Considering a freshwater-brine osmotic scenario, where 1m3/s brine with 7% salt content is pumped with a given pressure on one side of a semi-permeable membrane. Simultaneously, freshwater is allowed to permeate osmotically across the other side of this membrane with the same flow rate. As a result, the flow leaving the brine side is now doubled (2 m3/s) and still at the same pumping pressure, but at half of the original concentration or 3% .This excess in flow at the brine original pumping pressure is the hydraulic potential that can be used to generate what is called osmotic power.
MIK Technology ISO (1) osmotic salinity power is unlike any other technology (4, 5), a patent pending technology that promotes the concept of Large Scale Renewable Energy (LSRE) from hyper saline waters.
Scientifically, MIK Technology invention introduces a unique process concept employing a series of hydraulic cycles, operating in symbiotic mode within a concentration potential field to exploit the chemical potential dissimilarity of solutions. The proposed isothermal osmotic energy cycle approaches reversibility and is analogous, in its thermodynamic concept, to the Carnot Cycle. We named it the “ISO Cycle”, also the “Reversible Liquid Power Cycle”.
The subject technology targets world natural basins(6) such as the Great Salt Lake-U.S., Lake Natron-Tanzania, Lake Assal- Djibouti, Lake Urmia- Iran, Lake Baskunchak-Russia, the Dead Sea-Israel/Jordan, Lake Eyre North- Australia, Lake Van-Turkey and many others. This technology is also well adapted to many of the dry salt lakes such as the Aral Sea- Kazakhstan, Badwater basin- U.S. Death Valley, Qattara Depression- Egypt, Chott el- Jerid-Tunisia, Chott Melrhir- Algeria, salt domes, manmade salt ponds and formulated inexpensive concentrated brines.
IV. Tunisia’s Osmotic Power Potential
Osmotic power potential is attainable anywhere natural or manmade physical domain or ecological topography allows for cycling of waters of dissimilar salt concentration, preferably via evaporation-accumulation by solar energy. Seawater-fresh water is uneconomical power source (7).
Tunisia dry salt pans are in close proximity to the sea and sharing very dry climate, which offer a unique opportunity for osmotic energy generation. Here nature has provided for massive barren salt beds and dry lakes with less than 25 kilometers from the Mediterranean Sea with a ratio of evaporation to precipitation of about 25 times.
In fact, northern Africa in general has several such mid-Saharan land formations that has promoted MIK Technology to present a paper (8) to the Fourteenth International Middle East Power Systems Conference Cairo, Egypt, December, 19-21, 2010 proposing the transformation of the mid-Saharan Qattara Depression region into a completely self-sustainable and habitable community for 3-5 million people, relying on MIK Technology ISO Power Generation Concept to generate 3-4 Gigawatts of power to promote agricultural and industrial developments, and create the largest inland manmade aquatic habitat and world class resort.
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