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Comment Water Treatment

Non-thermal treatment method for high-salinity produced water

By Mary Page Bailey |

A new pilot project brings together advanced membrane filtration with non-thermal, zero-liquid-discharge (ZLD) solvent exchange to efficiently treat high-salinity produced water from oil-and-gas operations. PetroH2O Recovery (Southlake, Tex.; www.petroh2o.com) is currently building a pilot plant with the capacity to process 20 barrels per day of produced water from an operating well in the U.S. The plant will employ Cembrane submerged flat-sheet membranes for pretreatment and a proprietary ZLD extraction technology developed by Aquafortus Technologies (Auckland, New Zealand; www.aquafortus.com) for water recovery.

The Aquafortus technology involves liquid-to-liquid crystallization in a two-stage solvent-exchange unit equipped with patented absorbent and regenerant media. The absorbent encourages rapid crystallization of any salt content in the wastewater stream, effectively replacing the thermal evaporators and crystallizers used in traditional processes. In tests using actual waste streams from commercial sites, the continuous technology crystallized out all of the salts in the brine stream, allowing for the recovery of clean water for surface discharge. Typically, treatment methods for water with high total dissolved solids (TDS) consume large amounts of energy, but this non-thermal recovery technology does not.

“Current tests and modeling show this technology requires 60–70% lower operating expenses per barrel of water than current thermal processes,” says Brent Waller, managing partner at PetroH2O Recovery. Further contributing to energy economics is the Cembrane’s submerged operation, which enables it to operate at vacuum conditions, thus eliminating the pumping step required for pressurized membranes, explains Waller. The ceramic membrane is specially constructed to enable an “outside-in” filtration principle, and the membranes are designed to be modular and stackable so that capacity can be expanded as needed. According to Waller, the group plans to build additional pilot units at higher capacities and will announce details later this year.

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