Fouling Resistant Membranes for Efficient Oil Well Wastewater Treatment
Department of Energy
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Small Business Information
Clean Membranes, Inc.
100 Waltham Street, Lexington, MA, 02421-5413
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged:
AbstractOil extraction generates an estimated 2.4 billion gallons/day of produced water, which is brought to the surface together with oil and contains contaminants such as oil, drilling additives, metal ions and particulates which must be treated before reuse or disposal. Membrane separation, specifically ultrafiltration (UF), is a promising method for treating produced water streams efficiently, generating high effluent quality and preventing pollution. However, severe membrane fouling decreases membrane flux by 1-2 orders of magnitude during operation, leading to higher energy use, cleaning costs, and membrane replacement, thereby limiting the economics of UF treatment of produced water. Recently, novel UF membranes developed at MIT showed exceptional resistance to fouling and high flux, sustaining higher fluxes during the filtration of oil well produced water and refinery wastewater and capable of being cleaned by a water backwash, without aggressive chemicals. Clean Membranes, Inc., has licensed this technology, and is proceeding to develop these membranes for large scale commercial use, and the objective of this SBIR project is to establish the custom specifications for the manufacture of efficient, anti- fouling membranes in an industry-relevant, hollow fiber form, for the effective treatment of oil well produced water, especially from off-shore oil wells. Commercial Applications and Other Benefits: The focus of this SBIR project is the application of the high flux, high efficiency, fouling resistant membrane technology to the treatment of oil field produced water, with a special focus on off-shore oil wells. If successful, this new technology would (1) improve energy efficiency of the treatment process, typically hindered by fouling leading to flux decline by 1-2 orders of magnitude (2) improve effluent quality by removing oil, organics and macromolecules, and prevent the discharge of pollutants into oceans (3) limit the use of cleaning chemicals and the disposal of used cleaning solutions (4) increase membrane life (5) offer significant cost savings on UF treatment of oil well produced, decreasing energy, maintenance and capital costs, as well as downtime This can be a differentiating technology in oil well operations and may be of great interest to oil production and service companies. The systems developed in this project can, with specific modifications, also have applications in treating other wastewater streams in the oil and gas industry, such as shale oil and gas produced water, frac flow- back water, and refinery wastewater. Overall, this technology has the potential to significantly change the economics of UF treatment of produced water and make it an effective, efficient option
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