While the world faces an increased scarcity in fresh water supply, it is of great importance that water from industry and waste streams can be treated for re-use. One of the largest waste streams in the oil and gas industry is produced water. After the phase separation of oil and gas, the produced water is left. This mixture contains dissolved and dispersed hydrocarbons, surfactants, clay particles and salts. Before this water can be used for re-injection, irrigation or as industrial water, it has to be treated. Conventional filtration techniques such as multi media filters and cartridge filters, are able to remove the majority of the contaminants, but the smallest, stabilized oil droplets (<10 μm) remain present in the treated water. In recent years, research has focused on membranes to remove these small oil droplets, because this technology requires no frequent replacement of filters and the water quality after treatment is better. Membranes however suffer from fouling by the contaminants in produced water, leading to a lower clean water flux and increased energy costs. Current research on produced water treatment by membranes is mainly focused on improving existing processes and developing fouling-resistant membranes. Multiple investigations have determined the importance of different factors (such as emulsion properties and operating conditions) on the fouling process, but understanding the background of fouling is largely absent. In this review, we describe the interaction between the membrane and a produced water emulsion from a colloidal perspective, with the aim to create a clear framework that can lead to much more detailed understanding of membrane fouling in produced water treatment. Better understanding of the complex interactions at the produced water/membrane interface is essential to achieve more efficient applications.
Dickhout, J. M., Moreno, J., Biesheuvel, P. M., Boels, L., Lammertink, R. G. H., & de Vos, W. M. (2017). Produced water treatment by membranes: A review from a colloidal perspective. Journal of colloid and interface science, 487, 523-534. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jcis.2016.10.013