Membrane Distillation System Handles Fracking Wastewater

The new system was designed to reduce produced water disposal costs & enable water reuse

GE memsys clearwater membrane distillation hydraulic fracturing

After 200 hours of continuous operation at a Texas-based commercial disposal well, GE and memsys clearwater Pte. Ltd. announced success for a new vapor compressor-driven membrane distillation (MD) system.

The new system, which is used to concentrate produced water from the hydraulic fracturing process, was designed to reduce produced water disposal costs and enable water reuse. The joint project demonstrated that MD combined with vapor compression can handle the high-salinity produced waters associated with unconventional gas exploration and production. The field test has yielded positive results, which include: 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.

"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. "Since the cleaned water from the process can be reused it also will reduce the amount of fresh water needed per well, thereby further reducing costs and ecological impact."

With the project complete, the companies plan to continue to demonstrate this technology in other geographies and applications, as well as scaling up the process.

"The ability to treat even the most challenging wastewaters with our process in combination with a vapor compressor, instead of the normally used waste heat, increases the number of possible applications even further," said Gotz Lange, CEO of memsys. "GE has been an excellent partner on this technological breakthrough, and we look forward to continuing commercializing this technology for produced water treatment for the oil and gas industry. In this context, memsys is increasing the production volume for its modules eight-fold, sufficient for the installation of up to 50,000 cu m of daily water treatment capacity annually, which will be used across all possible applications for the memsys process."

GE and memsys entered into an agreement in 2012 to jointly 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.



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