Forward osmosis treatment of drilling mud and fracturing wastewater from oil and gas operations

Kerri L. Hickenbottom, Nathan T. Hancock, Nathan R. Hutchings, Eric W. Appleton, Edward G. Beaudry, Pei Xu, Tzahi Y. Cath

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

292 Scopus citations


To produce large volumes of newly discovered unconventional gas, hydraulic fracturing of wells is commonly practiced in basins where shale gas and coal bed methane are extracted. Hydraulic fracturing of wells during oil and gas (O&G) exploration consumes large volumes of fresh water and generates larger volumes of contaminated wastewater. In this study, a novel application of forward osmosis (FO) was tested for treatment and reclamation of water from drilling waste to facilitate beneficial water reuse. By using FO, two major benefits were achieved: both the volume of the waste stream and the need for a fresh water source were greatly reduced. Results indicate that FO can achieve high rejection of organic and inorganic contaminants, membrane fouling was reversible, and that the process was able to effectively recover more than 80% of the water from the drilling waste. Osmotic backwashing was demonstrated to be an effective membrane cleaning technique; successfully removing fouling and restoring water flux.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)60-66
Number of pages7
StatePublished - Mar 1 2013


  • Forward osmosis
  • Produced water
  • Wastewater treatment
  • Water reuse
  • Well fracturing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • General Materials Science
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Mechanical Engineering


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