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Fouling-Resistant, Chlorine-Tolerant Zwitterionic Membranes for Treatment of Produced Water in the Permian Basin
Project Number
Last Reviewed Dated

The project will advance the development of a novel membrane technology based on zwitterionic copolymers that can reject key constituents from produced water while maintaining immunity to detrimental and irreversible membrane fouling. These membranes can remove nanoscale oils, greases, colloidal material, heavy metals and dissolved organic molecules without removing salts and dissolved solids, making filtration of highly saline waste streams practical and cost-effective. The project will both optimize the membrane technology for the demanding operational parameters of produced water treatment and verify performance with actual samples in a representative environment and at a commercially significant scale in the Permian Basin.


Zwitterco, Inc. – Somerville, MA 02143
Advisian, a Worley Company – Houston, TX
The Asatekin Laboratory at Tufts University – Medford, MA
Heartland Water Technologies – Hudson, MA
The Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Research Facility (BGNDRF) – Alamogordo, NM
Daniel Shannon – Houston, TX

Zwitter Prototype
Prototype membrane module

The complexity of the chemical composition of produced water has historically constrained management strategies to reinjection for disposal or reuse within the oilfield. However, disposal restrictions, fresh water scarcity, and high water-cuts amidst a deficit in disposal capacity and water transport infrastructure are forcing operators to evaluate technologies that enable reuse outside of the oilfield, a practice that is often considered prohibitively expensive.


The proposed project will demonstrate that ZwitterCo’s membrane technology is an improvement over conventional pre-treatment on the fully burdened cost per barrel. This technology focuses on the economically favorable removal of the constituents that would otherwise handicap further treatment efforts like ion exchange, electrocoagulation, and membrane or thermal desalination. For desalination, a prerequisite for recycling produced water in most non-oilfield applications, ZwitterCo pretreatment could enable cost-efficiencies seen in mature zero liquid discharge (ZLD) applications, and accelerating the adoption of these technologies in the oilfield and the standardization of beneficial reuse. If successful, this project will demonstrate that produced water can be treated to levels supporting economic beneficial reuse of the water.

Accomplishments (most recent listed first)

Project kick-off presentation was held February 10, 2020

Current Status

Due to COVID-19 and state essential operations requirements, the ZwitterCo lab is not accessible. Current activities focus on gathering of preliminary data necessary for a full Techno-economic analysis of the proposed technology.

Project Start
Project End
DOE Contribution


Performer Contribution


Contact Information

NETL – Robert Vagnetti ( or 304-285-1334)
ZwitterCo, Inc. – Christopher Drover ( or 617-682-6846)