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Desalination and Reuse of High-Salinity Shale Gas Produced Water: Drivers, Technologies, and Future Directions

Shaffer, Devin L.; Arias Chavez, Laura H.; Ben-Sasson, Moshe; Castrillon, Santiago Romero-Vargas; Yip, Ngai Yin; Elimelech, Menachem

In the rapidly developing shale gas industry, managing produced water is a major challenge for maintaining the profitability of shale gas extraction while protecting public health and the environment. We review the current state of practice for produced water management across the United States and discuss the interrelated regulatory, infrastructure, and economic drivers for produced water reuse. Within this framework, we examine the Marcellus shale play, a region in the eastern United States where produced water is currently reused without desalination. In the Marcellus region, and in other shale plays worldwide with similar constraints, contraction of current reuse opportunities within the shale gas industry and growing restrictions on produced water disposal will provide strong incentives for produced water desalination for reuse outside the industry. The most challenging scenarios for the selection of desalination for reuse over other management strategies will be those involving high-salinity produced water, which must be desalinated with thermal separation processes. We explore desalination technologies for treatment of high-salinity shale gas produced water, and we critically review mechanical vapor compression (MVC), membrane distillation (MD), and forward osmosis (FO) as the technologies best suited for desalination of high-salinity produced water for reuse outside the shale gas industry. The advantages and challenges of applying MVC, MD, and FO technologies to produced water desalination are discussed, and directions for future research and development are identified. We find that desalination for reuse of produced water is technically feasible and can be economically relevant. However, because produced water management is primarily an economic decision, expanding desalination for reuse is dependent on process and material improvements to reduce capital and operating costs.


Also Published In

Environmental Science and Technology

More About This Work

Academic Units
Earth and Environmental Engineering
American Chemical Society
Published Here
July 2, 2016