Towards a low-energy seawater reverse osmosis desalination plant: A review and theoretical analysis for future directions

Kiho Park, Jungbin Kim, Dae Ryook Yang, Seungkwan Hong

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

132 Citations (Scopus)


Seawater is receiving consideration as an infinite water source in the current era of water shortage. The application of seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) to prepare seawater for human use is increasing exponentially owing to its high energy efficiency among desalination technologies. However, SWRO is still energy-intensive, and thus needs to be improved further to become more environmentally sound (i.e., producing less CO2). To tackle such a challenge, this study was conducted to propose strategies to lower the specific energy consumption (SEC) of the SWRO process. From the results of extensive review and theoretical analysis, three directions were proposed for improving the energy efficiency of the SWRO process: i) minimize the irreversible work of the high-pressure pump, ii) decrease the osmotic pressure of the feed, and iii) recover osmotic energy from reverse osmosis (RO) concentrate. After the feasibility of each approach was identified by assessing the theoretical minimum energy and the maximum available margin, strategies for each direction were presented with a technical description, then critically evaluated by considering their practical application. Because this paper includes theoretical perspectives for energy savings in SWRO, it provides comprehensive ideas for lowering the SEC of SWRO desalination plants in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Article number117607
JournalJournal of Membrane Science
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Feb 1


  • Low-energy consumption
  • Osmotic energy
  • Reverse osmosis
  • Seawater desalination
  • Theoretical exergy analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Filtration and Separation


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