Texas A&M researches desalination for oil production water

A membrane filtration process for treatment and desalination of wastewater created during oil and gas drilling is being researched at Texas A&M University in the USA under a recent agreement between the university and oilfield service company M-I Swaco.

The technology, which was developed by Texas A&M’s Department of Petroleum Engineering and the Global Petroleum Research Institute (GPRI), is being licensed to M-I Swaco by the university.

“We have been developing reliable membrane filtration processes for almost a decade,” said David Burnett, director of technology for GPRI. “My background as an oil field petroleum engineer has helped me adopt commercial water treatment technology to work reliably in the oil field with minimum supervision.”

Burnett’s group will work with a team of M-I SWACO engineers and technicians to provide specialized well site services on six continents. Water flow-back from hydraulic fracturing practices is a vexing problem encountered by those developing unconventional gas and oil resources worldwide.

In the Barnett Shale play in Texas, for instance, wells require from 5 to 7 MGD (19,000-26,000 m³/d) of water per well to stimulate gas production from the tight gas-containing formation. If treated to remove solids and other contaminants, much of this water can be reused, avoiding the competition with communities and agriculture for fresh water.

The research partnership with M-I SWACO will support advanced research in membrane separation at Texas A&M, says Burnett. His team is working on technology to selectively remove contaminants from oil and gas production wastewater.