A reverse osmosis treatment process for produced water: optimization, process control, and renewable energy application
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Fresh water resources in many of the world's oil producing regions, such as western Texas, are scarce, while produced water from oil wells is plentiful, though unfit for most applications due to high salinity and other contamination. Disposing of this water is a great expense to oil producers. This research seeks to advance a technology developed to treat produced water by reverse osmosis and other means to render it suitable for agricultural or industrial use, while simultaneously reducing disposal costs. Pilot testing of the process thus far has demonstrated the technology's capability to produce good-quality water, but process optimization and control were yet to be fully addressed and are focuses of this work. Also, the use of renewable resources (wind and solar) are analyzed as potential power sources for the process, and an overview of reverse osmosis membrane fouling is presented. A computer model of the process was created using a dynamic simulator, Aspen Dynamics, to determine energy consumption of various process design alternatives, and to test control strategies. By preserving the mechanical energy of the concentrate stream of the reverse osmosis membrane, process energy requirements can be reduced several fold from that of the current configuration. Process control schemes utilizing basic feedback control methods with proportional-integral (PI) controllers are proposed, with the feasibility of the strategy for the most complex process design verified by successful dynamic simulation. A macro-driven spreadsheet was created to allow for quick and easy cost comparisons of renewable energy sources in a variety of locations. Using this tool, wind and solar costs were compared for cities in regions throughout Texas. The renewable energy resource showing the greatest potential was wind power, with the analysis showing that in windy regions such as the Texas Panhandle, wind-generated power costs are approximately equal to those generated with diesel fuel.
Mareth, Brett (2006). A reverse osmosis treatment process for produced water: optimization, process control, and renewable energy application. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from