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NEXT GENERATION WATER TREATMENT AND PROCESS TECHNOLOGY FOR OFFSHORE OIL AND GAS OPERATIONS

The Next Generation of Electrochemical Desalination Technologies James Butler, Staff Writer Electrochemical desalination technologies offer multiple advantages for the offshore oil and gas industry.

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OR DECADES the oil and gas industry has produced millions of tonnes of waste water. However, dealing with it has always been expensive, difficult and inefficient. Today, though, the need to reduce the contamination of the surrounding environment, coupled with significant cost pressures, has prompted the industry to look at new ways of treating water. One of the most promising comes in the form of a new generation of electrochemical desalination technologies. As well as offering superior performance, these are able to do the job on a more cost effective basis and with less impact on the environment than conventional technologies.

Improving on Convention The oil and gas industry uses numerous methods to treat water. These include physical filtration, micro-biochemical treatment and oxidation, but many of these have severe limitations. Due to the space constraints on board an oil rig, compact physical and chemical removal methods have generally been preferred. However, this struggles to remove sufficient particles of suspended oil and other contaminants. Equally, the high cost of many of these solutions has limited their use, especially as the oil price environment has become more constrained. Biological removal methods have offered a more cost effective, and in some cases efficient, method of removing contaminants. But increasingly the industry is turning its attention towards electrochemical water treatment technologies as offering superior performance. Frequently, experts are beginning to cite electrochemistry as a possibility. A 2012 report from the Oxford Journal highlighted that,

while its use in areas such as produced water treatment was still in the laboratory stage, it did offer a number of viable alternatives over existing technologies. “High treatment cost, production and discharge of secondary waste, high energy requirement and use of chemicals in some cases are common problems facing these technologies,” states the report. “Electrochemistry on the other hand is a relatively cheap green technology. It does not generate secondary waste nor involve the use of additional chemicals, and offers improved beneficial uses of produced water. It can generate and store energy, remove organics, produce clean water and recover valuable materials from produced water with little or no negative impact on the environment.”

Electrochemical Desalination A series of studies, over the last decade, have examined the possibilities of electrochemical desalination techniques. Salt water is passed through or by a pair of high surface porous diodes. Because salt dissolves into positively and negatively charged particles, the current is then able to attract the particles and effectively clean the water. The application of a current attracts impurities to the diodes and effectively purifies the water. A study in 2014 found that: “Electrochemical technologies are a promising alternative for the treatment of wastewaters containing organic pollutants. The main advantages of these processes include environmental compatibility, versatility, energy efficiency, safety, selectivity, amenability to automation and cost effectiveness.3” Another development from the University of Colorado in Boulder discovered that using a WWW.OFFSHORETECHNOLOGYREPORTS.COM | 11

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