Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2014NM166B

Self-Sustaining Produced Water Treatment for Concurrent Renewable Energy Production, Desalination and Organic Removal

Institute: New Mexico
Year Established: 2014 Start Date: 2014-05-01 End Date: 2015-04-30
Total Federal Funds: $30,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $60,000

Principal Investigators: Pei Xu

Abstract: The oil & gas exploration and production in New Mexico plays a critical role in national energy security and economic development. Management of produced water is a significant challenge to oil & gas producers and operators. Produced water contains contaminants such as suspended and colloidal solids, petroleum hydrocarbons, salts, and chemical additives. The water is considered hazardous waste and must be treated or disposed safely. The common disposal method -deep well injection is costly and waste of valuable water resources. Conventional thermal evaporation and membrane-based water treatment technologies such as reverse osmosis are cost and energy intensive. Here we propose to develop an innovative microbial capacitive deionization cell (MCDC) to simultaneously remove organic substances and salts from produced water so it can be recycled and reused. Moreover, compared to other energy intensive systems, MCDC uses bacteria to convert biodegradable pollutants into direct electricity, which offsets operation energy use or supplies additional energy for other systems. Our preliminary studies have demonstrated that MCDC can remove organic matters, desalinate salt water, and produce electricity in a single system. In this proposal, we will develop novel modular systems for produced water treatment using advanced carbon materials as electrodes, and optimize reactor configuration to improve the removal of solutes in the reactor. The proposed system can be used as a standalone process or as pretreatment for membrane desalination processes to reduce energy consumption and fouling potential. Therefore the objectives of the research are threefold: 1) develop modular MCDC to substantially increase system performance in produced water treatment and energy production; 2) optimize the systems with novel electrode materials, microbial communities, and configurations to make the technology more efficient; 3) evaluate the MCDC process at system level for treating produced water. This project will request $30,000 to sponsor two graduate students (one PhD and one Master Thesis graduate student) to conduct laboratory scale experiments. Based on the previous work, a larger reactor will be designed and tested for produced water treatment, which will allow the scale-up of the treatment system for potential commercialization of the technology. One of the outcomes of the project will be to promote statewide research and education program on produced water treatment and beneficial use with University of New Mexico, and New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, in collaboration with Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, New Mexico Environment Department, and Office of the State Engineer.