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A New Membrane Based Treatment Process for Reclaiming and Reutilization of Produced Water
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The overall objective of this project is to develop a new membrane-based filtration system for removing organic compounds from produced water (PW). The proposed membrane treatment process integrates the new filter with a series of well-established water treatment technologies, such as mechanical filtration and reverse osmosis (RO) membranes to remove all suspended and dissolved solids, organic molecules, bacteria and radioactive particles from the PW generated in oil and natural gas production.


TDA Research, Inc. - Wheat Ridge, CO 80033

Gas Technology Institute (GTI) - Des Plaines, IL 60018
Matheson - Montgomeryville, PA 18936


The proposed research of this project will focus on the development and demonstration of a unique zeolite coated ceramic nanofiltration membrane that can selectively remove the organic compounds to protect a downstream (final-stage) desalination system. The state-of-the-art RO membranes currently used to remove dissolved solids are severely fouled by the organic compounds in the PW, and the proposed ceramic nanofiltration membrane will extend the life of the RO units by removing these impurities prior to desalination. This project will develop and demonstrate a prototype system capable of processing 10 kg/day of PW. A detailed design of the full-scale system, including the design of all auxiliary units supporting operations will also be developed. Finally, a technoeconomic analysis will be completed to addresses any regulatory issues related to the use of the reclaimed water and the disposal of waste byproducts.


The novel ceramic nanofiltration membrane offers many benefits over polymer membranes including stability to chemicals; tolerance to high pressure, temperature, and abrasion; and long lifetimes. Chemical stability allows aggressive chemical cleaning procedures over a wide range of acidity. Ceramic membranes also offer high flux rates because they tolerate higher cross flow. They are easier to operate than polymeric membranes because they can be drained and removed from service and then restarted (polymer membranes must stay wet to maintain performance). Ceramic membranes are more expensive than polymeric membranes but have shown 20 years of operation with minimal loss in permeability.

Accomplishments (most recent listed first)
  • Demonstrated the technical viability of the zeolite coating membrane produced water treatment technology at the bench-scale, first with using simulated solutions and then using actual produced water samples obtained from the oil fields.
  • Demonstrated that the membranes can effectively separate dissolved salts and hydrocarbons from water, reducing the Total Dissolved Solids and Total Organic Content of the product stream to very low concentrations. This includes exceeding the target of treated water containing less than 2 ppmw of organic compounds.
  • Optimized the operating conditions and identified the key process parameters that will increase the flux across the membrane while maintaining high purity in the recovered water.
  • Confirmed purity of treated water samples made to-date using a third-party laboratory.
  • Continued lab scale testing of simulant and actual produced water samples from eight discrete locations to evaluate membrane life.
  • Initial TEA completed showing that TDA’s produced water system can provide PW water treatment for less than $3/barrel.
  • Completed a review of the prototype designs and finalized major equipment and instrument specifications for the prototype unit.
  • Completed the prototype unit fabrication and concept demonstration tests.
  • Completed process design comparison for 100 the bpd unit (100x scale up).
Current Status

The project has fabricated of a 10 kg/h prototype unit that was be used to complete the concept demonstration tests. The system demonstrated the ability to achieve removal of organic compounds to less than 2 ppmw at a water recovery greater than 70% using produced water from multiple locations. Membrane Life Tests are underway to demonstrate a target degradation rate of less than 1.5% in performance over 1000 hours of operations. Based on the results of these tests, the commercial membrane system design and Technoeconomic Analysis will be updated.

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DOE Contribution


Performer Contribution


Contact Information

NETL — Stephen Henry ( or 304-285-2083)
TDA Research, Inc. — Gokhan Alptekin ( or 303-940-2349)