Funded by US Department of Energy, New York State Research Development Authority and MI Swaco

This Project was completed in 2012.

The goal of this project has been to identify a reliable and cost-effective pre-treatment methodology for use in processes employed to treat and reuse field-produced brine and fracture flowback waters. The objective is to develop a mobile, multifunctional water treatment capability designed specifically for “pre-treatment” of field waste brine by conducting a side-by-side comparison between this new technology and technology already being used in field operations. The objective of the A&M EFD Brine Treatment effort is to develop a mobile, multifunctional water treatment capability designed specifically for “pre-treatment” of field waste brine.

Shale gas development relies heavily on the hydraulic fracturing process in order to maximize the economic viability of each new well. Not all regions of the country possess sufficient unallocated fresh water resources to fulfill the “new water” requirements needed for each frac job. Additionally, there are numerous regulatory agency/community questions and concerns—particularly with respect to the safety of the hydraulic fracturing process and its potential to harm the environment—regarding the development of these new areas.

The challenge is to identify technologies and approaches for treating the frac water that returns to the surface following a frac job (frac flowback water) for beneficial re-use in other applications, thereby conserving other local freshwater supplies. One important application would be to treat the water so that it could be reused in subsequent frac jobs. The demonstration of such technologies in field applications is needed to provide industry, policy makers, and the public with the information they need to make better decisions regarding the development of critical energy resources.

Technologies must:

Researchers identified the best technologies for deployment in the field and has conducted a month-long trial in upstate New York. This trial processed ultra-high salinity brine of greater than 140,000 total dissolved solids (TDS), removing all hydrocarbons and bacteria from produced water and removing all suspended solids so that nanofiltration using spiral wrapped polymeric membranes was able to remove divalent dissolved ions, making  the produced water thermodynamically stable and suitable for re-use in subsequent well operations.

Pretreatment technologies for field operations deployment have been identified. Tests have been replicated at three locations where all results have validated performance of the pre-filtration process train to determine operating cost, separation efficiency, and product water quality. The power cost to operate the pre-treatment process has ranged from $.84 per barrel treated brine to $1.12 per barrel.  These costs validate the expectation that offending contaminants can be removed from flow back brine and produced water at very reasonable costs.

The chief accomplishment has been the development of a “chemicals free” methodology for removing contaminants from highly saline oil field produced brine.  This accomplishment promises a more environmentally friendly way to manage produced and frac water flowback from Marcellus gas shale drilling.

Final Report


For more information contact:

     Rich Haut, rhaut@HARCResearch.org, 281-364-6093