Assessing pretreatment effectiveness for particulate, organic and biological fouling in a full-scale swro desalination plant

Almotasembellah Abushaban*, Sergio G. Salinas-Rodriguez, Delia Pastorelli, Jan C. Schippers, Subhanjan Mondal, Said Goueli, Maria D. Kennedy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
49 Downloads (Pure)


In this study, the removal of particulate, organic and biological fouling potential was investigated in the two-stage dual media filtration (DMF) pretreatment of a full-scale seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) desalination plant. Moreover, the removal of fouling potential in two-stage DMF (DMF pretreatment) was compared with the removal in two-stage DMF installed after dissolved air floatation (DAF) (DAF-DMF pretreatment). For this purpose, the silt density index (SDI), modified fouling index (MFI), bacterial growth potential (BGP), organic fractions and microbial adenosine triphosphate (ATP) were monitored in the pretreatment processes of two full-scale SWRO plants. Particulate fouling potential was well controlled through the two stages of DMF with significant removal of SDI15 (>80%), MFI0.45 (94%) and microbial ATP (>95%). However, lower removal of biological/organic fouling potential (24–41%) was observed due to frequent chlorination (weekly) of the pretreatment, resulting in low biological activity in the DMFs. Therefore, neutralizing chlorine before media filtration is advised, rather than after, as is the current practice in many full-scale SWRO plants. Comparing overall removal in the DAF-DMF pretreatment to that of the DMF pretreatment showed that DAF improved the removal of biological/organic fouling potential, in which the removal of BGP and biopolymers increased by 40% and 16%, respectively. Overall, monitoring ATP and BGP during the pretreatment processes, particularly in DMF, would be beneficial to enhance biological degradation and lower biofouling potential in SWRO feed water.

Original languageEnglish
Article number167
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Desalination
  • Fouling potential
  • Pretreatment
  • Seawater monitoring
  • Seawater reverse osmosis


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