Membrane distillation process proves successful for fracking wastewater

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A vapor compressor-driven membrane distillation (MD) system designed to help reuse water in the hydraulic fracturing (fracking) process has been put through its paces in Texas.

A joint demonstration project from US firm GE Power & Water and Germany company memsys has seen 200 hours of continuous operation at a Texas-based commercial disposal well.

The project reportedly showed that MD combined with vapor compression can handle the high-salinity produced waters associated with unconventional gas exploration and production.

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Results reported from the two partners included: 100% process uptime without any noticeable decline in performance or need for cleaning; stable performance with brine concentrations near saturation; lower energy consumption compared to conventional technology and high distillate quality.

It was in 2012 when GE and memsys joined forces to develop MD technology for the fast-growing unconventional resources marketplace, including shale gas, coal seam gas and other unconventional fuels recovered by hydraulic fracturing.

Under the terms of the agreement, GE will invest in testing the technology and in return receive an exclusive license for the use of the technology in these applications.

memsys will subsequently increase the production volume for its modules eight-fold, sufficient for the installation of up to 50,000 m3 of daily water treatment capacity annually.

“As the cost of brine concentration comes down it will enable more sustainable treatment options compared to trucking and deep well disposal,” said Bill Heins, general manager, thermal products - water and process technologies for GE Power & Water.

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