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Synthesis and Modelling of Robust Processes for Desalination of Shale-gas Produced Water

Chemical Engineering

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Dr S Soltani Applications accepted all year round Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Shale gas extraction via hydraulic fracking is a technique in which gas is extracted from the shale layers of rock under the ground. One of the key challenges associated with fracking, however, is the large quantity of contaminated produced water generated during the production lifespan of the shale-gas wells. The UK has recently re-activated its plan to explore shale-gas potentials in the country as stated by the government: “We are encouraging safe and environmentally sound exploration to determine this potential”. Therefore, there is a new wave of national interests in the exploration and extraction of shale-gas in the UK with a potential of 0.57 tcm estimated to be technically recoverable. One of the major forthcoming challenges facing the shale gas production industry is the management of large amounts of wastewater (known as produced water (PW)) generated throughout the well’s lifetime. Treatment of this wastewater is increasingly becoming an attractive alternative to both re-use and deep-well disposal, owing to more stringent regulations in the UK/EU compared to the USA and also with regards to the rising global fresh water scarcity due to climate change. The main treatment challenge; however, is the reduction of total dissolved solids (TDS) in the highly saline PW.

Although there exists a number of individual treatment methods, there has been little work on the synthesis of intensified hybrid treatment processes for TDS reduction in shale gas PW - aiming to maximise process efficiency via minimising energy consumption and waste generation as well as the capital expenditures (CAPEX) and operating expenditures (OPEX), while maximising the rate of production i.e. desalinated water. In this modelling- and simulation-based project, you would aim to take advantage of the inherent geothermal energy of the shale-gas PW and synthesise intensified treatment processes comprising inherently energy-intensive but promising technologies of forward osmosis (FO) and membrane distillation (MD) for the optimum removal of TDS from shale-gas produced water under various operating scenarios and various PW concentration and production rates.

You will be using advanced modelling and simulation software including gPROMS, Aspen Suite and Matlab to develop and optimise these processes. Your research is expected to develop a surrogate model founded on first-principle modelling of individual process units to identify the optimum process design and operating conditions for the desalination of shale-gas produced water while taking advantage of the geothermal energy of such waste stream.

Funding Notes

Brunel offers a number of funding options to research students that help cover the cost of their tuition fees, contribute to living expenses or both. See more information here: https://www.brunel.ac.uk/research/Research-degrees/Research-degree-funding. Recently the UK Government made available the Doctoral Student Loans of up to £25,000 for UK and EU students and there is some funding available through the Research Councils. Many of our international students benefit from funding provided by their governments or employers. Brunel alumni enjoy tuition fee discounts of 15%.)
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