Seawater desalination is considered a technique with high water supply potential and has become an emerging alternative for freshwater supply in China. The increase of the capacity also increases energy consumption and greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions, which has not been well investigated in studies. This study has analyzed the current development of seawater desalination in China, including the capacity, distribution, processes, as well as the desalted water use. Energy consumption and GHG emissions of overall desalination in China, as well as for the provinces, are calculated covering the period of 2006–2016. The unit product cost of seawater desalination plants specifying processes is also estimated. The results showed that 1) The installed capacity maintained increased from 2006 to 2016, and reverse osmosis is the major process used for seawater desalination in China. 2) The energy consumption increased from 81 MWh/y to 1,561 MWh/y during the 11 years. The overall GHG emission increase from 85 Mt CO2eq
/y to 1,628 Mt CO2eq
/y. Tianjin had the largest GHG emissions, following are Hebei and Shandong, with emissions of 4.1 Mt CO2eq
/y, 2.2 Mt CO2eq
/y. and 1.0 Mt CO2eq
/y. 3) The unit product cost of seawater desalination is higher than other water supply alternatives, and it differentiates the desalination processes. The average unit product cost of the reverse osmosis process is 0.96 USD and 2.5 USD for the multiple-effect distillation process. The potential for future works should specify different energy forms, e.g. heat and power. Alternatives of process integration should be investigated—e.g. efficiency of using the energy, heat integration, and renewables in water desalination, as well as the utilization of total site heat integration.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited