In this paper, a large MSF distillation plant in the gulf area is analyzed thermodynamically using actual plant operation data. Exergy flow rates are evaluated throughout the plant, and the exergy flow diagram is prepared. The rates of exergy destruction and their percentages are indicated on the diagram so that the locations of highest exergy destruction can easily be identified. The highest exergy destruction (77.7%) occurs within the MSF unit, as expected, and this can be reduced by increasing the number of flashing stages. The exergy destruction in the pumps and motors account for 5.3% of the total, and this also can be reduced by using high efficiency motors and pumps. The plant is determined to have a second law efficiency of just 4.2%, which is very low. This indicates that there are major opportunities. in the plant to reduce exergy destruction and, thus, the amount of electric and thermal energy supplied, making the operation of the plant more cost effective. (c) 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.