This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II project will develop commercial systems to economically purify produced water streams. Produced water is the water that is co-extracted from oil and gas production and is often ten times as voluminous as the extracted hydrocarbon. Phase II efforts will be focused on scale-up to fabricate a 200 gallon-per-minute produced water treatment system to effectively mine hydrocarbons from the fluid. The process uses a newly developed nano-engineered organosilica that rapidly and reversibly swells when exposed to organics, yet is hydrophobic and does not absorb water. The organosilica material is unique that it acts as a nanomechanical sponge extracting dispersed and dissolved hydrocarbons. The captured hydrocarbons can be recovered from the silica and the sorbent material re-used. Successful development of these water purification systems will allow for an entire new mechanism for produced water management.
The broader impact/commercial potential of this project development is tied to the ability to treat numerous produced water streams which are currently difficult or expensive to treat, and to obtain a higher yield in the recovery of valuable products. Approximately 800 billion gallons of produced water must be managed annually in petroleum operations around the world. This treatment process will allow existing oil and gas production fields to meet existing or higher environmental discharge standards at a lower overall cost. The system will also reduce the impact or potential impact of the discharge of produced water in emerging markets with sensitive environmental concerns. From an economic impact the system will result in a higher yield for many oil and gas fields, by capturing for refinement valuable hydrocarbons which would otherwise have been disposed of as waste. Phase I results showed that 0.4-3.5% of a typical "waste" stream is composed of potentially valuable hydrocarbons which are not recoverable with existing technology. The recovery of these hydrocarbons, which are often the lightest and most energy-valuable compounds, such as toluene and octane, will increase the value of every producing well using this system.
Produced water is the term given to water accompanying the production of oil and gas from underground reservoirs. It is estimated that 800 billion gallons of produced water were created from petroleum extraction activities around the world. A significant hurdle in harvesting the value contained in produced water is the development of materials and processes that can separate residual petroleum from high volume produced water streams in an economical and sustainable manner. Such technology improves the efficiency of hydrocarbon energy production while protecting the environment. ABS Materials Inc. produces a class of patented, chemically inert, nano-engineered organosilica-based materials under the tradename Osorb® media. Osorb media has high capacity to extract petroleum residues from water. In the SBIR Phase II/IIB project ABS Materials conducted applied research towards developing systems for the treatment of produced water, especially for off-shore oil and gas platforms. The research focused on methods to reduce cost of manufacturing and improving performance of the material for compounds found in produced water including BTEX chemicals, phenols, and dispersed oil droplets. The primary outcomes of the project were i) the development of the means to mass produce Osorb and ii) the pilot-scale use of the media (300kg scale) in field trials.