Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2015WV220B

Development of Microbial Desalination Cells as an Innovative Low-cost Desalination Method for Produced Water Treatment

Institute: West Virginia
Year Established: 2015 Start Date: 2015-03-01 End Date: 2016-02-29
Total Federal Funds: $46,491 Total Non-Federal Funds: $22,781

Principal Investigators: Lian-Shin Lin

Abstract: Hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas (O&G) production results in generation of more than 20 billion barrels of produced water each year. One troublesome aspect of the produced water is its high salinity and organic contents, which often require treatment before disposal or reuse of the water. With additional treatment, produced water may be made suitable for higher-value uses after additional levels of treatment. At present, the major barriers to produced water recovery and reuse are the high cost of existing technology, difficulties adapting water treatment techniques to high salinity environments, and lack of a regulatory framework and motivation for adoption. The goal of this project is to develop a low-cost desalination technology employing innovative electrochemical mechanisms for treatment of produced water from O&G production. The project represents a multi-disciplinary collaboration and is designed to capitalize an ongoing research program funded by DOEs National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) Marcellus Shale Energy and Environment Laboratory (MSEEL). The MSEEL site and its operations will be used as an environmental context for PIs to design laboratory experiments and analyses to develop of the electrochemical desalination systems. The proposed research builds upon previous research on produced water treatment using a capacity deionization (CDI) unit powered by serially connected three microbial fuel cells (MFCs). It is designed to improve previous MFCs-CDI design for enhanced desalination efficiency, and to explore electrochemically induced salt precipitation as an innovative low-cost desalination mechanism. Three research objectives will be pursued to achieve the project goal: 1) conduct system analyses and modeling to improve the current design; 2) quantify the kinetics and efficiency of produced water desalination, and 3) design a pilot-scale process for future field tests. The project is expected to generate results for further developing a new desalination technology based on innovative salt removal mechanisms. The results will be used in the design of field-scale systems for processing produced water flows at the MSEEL site. Successful completion of the project is expected to attract additional investment from O&G industry to validate the technology in the field. It is expected to have broader applications of desalination beyond produced water treatment such as seawater and brackish water treatment for drinking and irrigation purposes.