Energy Policy Act of 2005

Cost-Effective Treatment of Produced Water Using Co-Produced Energy Sources - Phase II: Field Scale Demo and Commercialization


Primary Performer
Petroleum Recovery Research Center (PRRC) of the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (Socorro, NM)

Additional Participants
New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology
Harvard Petroleum Corporation LLC

The key objective of this research project is to optimize the humidification-dehumidification (HDH) process that was successfully tested in the field, scaling up the prototype to a higher processing capacity using coproduced energy sources and solar energy, and optimizing and increasing automation. The resulting purified water can be used for drilling, stimulation, irrigation or other beneficial uses. The existing HDH field prototype was designed to process 20 bbl/day of produced water feed, employing humidification as the primary unit operation, with evaporation to produce high quality water. The research will focus on retrofitting the existing setup with a solar loop and optimizing system parameters, followed by scaling and modularization to allow use of multiple units in series, parallel, or a combination of series and parallel to best match water purification demands at any site. While a single larger unit could be fabricated; the costs of fabrication, ease of maintenance, and overall economics of a modular system appears more favorable.

The process has been optimized to operate at an inlet temperature of 175°F or 80°C, with a supplemental air blower, followed by condensation in an air-cooled condenser, resulting in ultra-pure distilled water. The average treatment cost of produced water purification with this method is estimated to be $0.31/bbl, which is a great improvement compared to the $0.79/bbl established in the lab scale tests in the RPSEA project 07123-05 and a vast improvement over current costs for produced water treatment in New Mexico which is ~$2.50/bbl. The addition of solar energy is expected to further reduce costs to $0.19/bbl. It should be noted that this cost is for a first pass yield of 18% pure water. The decrease in process cost was established by using a low energy intensive–HDH process, and the current proposal plans implementation of solar energy and co-produced heat. The system not only processes water economically, but also excludes the use of fossil energy as used in conventional desalination plants to preheat water. The portable nature of the unit and the fact that it can be located at a wellhead or at a field gathering site removes transportation costs, a major cost factor.

The proposed research includes optimization of the existing prototype using solar energy, followed by fabricating a development scale modular prototype that can handle higher amounts of inlet water, with increased automation, for continuous operation.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Robert Balch

Project Cost:
DOE share: $681,826
Recipient share: $711,622

Project Duration: 2 years