International Journal of Membrane Science and Technology  (Volume 2 Issue 2)
 Optimal Design of Thermal Membrane Distillation Systems for the Treatment of Shale Gas Flowback Water International Journal of Membrane Science and Technology
Pages 1-9

Nesreen A. Elsayed, Maria A. Barrufet, Fadwa T. Eljack and Mahmoud M. El-Halwagi



Published: 30 November 2015

Shale gas production is associated with the significant consumption of fresh water and discharge of wastewater. The flowback wastewater is tied to the hydraulic fracturing technology used for completing and stimulating the horizontal wells in the very tight formations characterizing the shale formation. Treatment and reuse of these large volumes of wastewater can lead to substantial savings in fresh water usage and reduction of the negative environmental impact thereby enhancing sustainability of the shale gas industry. Such treatment requires selective and cost-effective technology.

Thermal membrane distillation (TMD) is an emerging technology that offers several advatanges such as high selectivity in separating water from inorganic solutes and modular nature that can accommodate a wide range of flows. It can also utilize low-level heats that are typically available from shale-gas production and processing.

The objective of this work is to develop an optimization approach for the design of TMD systems to treat flowback water. A multi-period formulation is developed to account for the time-based variation in the flowrate and concentration of the flowback water. Modeling equations are used to relate design and operating variables to performance and cost. The optimization formulation also accounts for the period-based changes in the required design and operating variables and reconciles them over the selected periods. Other constraints include quality of the permeate and water-recovery ratio. The optimization formulation and design approach are applied to a case study for the treatment of flowback water for the Marcellus Shale Play. For 75% water recovery, the cost of the permeate is about $2.6/m3. As higher recoveries are sought, the cost per m3 of permeate increases due to capital productivity factors in dealing with the decreasing amount of flowback water over time. The results are reported using a Pareto chart that trades off recovery objectives with cost of treated water.
 Thermal membrane distillation, Shale gas production, Flowback water, process integration, scheduling optimization.