Water Treatment and Reuse in Unconventional Gas Production

A key challenge in tapping vast reserves of natural gas from shale deposits is treating the water that is used to bring this gas to the surface. GE researchers are developing a better, low-cost solution to treat the water, reuse it and even reuse some of the byproducts that result from the process.

Today, oil and gas companies use a process called hydraulic fracturing, which injects a mixture of water and chemicals at high pressure to recover natural gas. A by-product of this process is very dirty water that can contain very high levels of salt content (6X that of sea water). The processes used to treat this water today are effective, but very expensive and energy intensive.

GE scientists are bringing a broad set of technical capabilities and knowledge from across GE’s business portfolio to deliver new technologies for this challenge. A key component of this solution is new membrane distillation technology (MD) that will enable greater water reuse at substantially reduced energy consumption and costs.

GE Global Research and GE’s Water business are partnering with Memsys, a start-up company that manufactures MD modules, to accelerate the development of MD technology. GE’s goal is to offer a new product that is 50% lower in cost and a reduced environment footprint as well. One advantage of GE’s system will be the ability for Oil and Gas customers to locate their water treatment facilities on site, as opposed to having to truck water to an offsite facility for treatment. This could significantly reduce truck traffic from well sites within nearby local communities.