American Oil and Gas Reporter - August 2017 - 63

SpecialReport: Hydraulic Fracturing Technology
Department of Petroleum and Geosystems
Engineering at the University of Texas
at Austin. Ko is leading a team that is
developing a way to remove those droplets
more efficiently.
The idea is to fill the water with magnetic nanoparticles that have a positively-charged coating that causes them to
attach to the negatively-charged oil
droplets. Once that happens, a magnet
can remove the oil, Ko describes.
"After treatment, there is little or no
oil left in the water, so it is safe to
discharge into the ocean or an onshore
environment," Ko says. "The nanoparticles
attach to the oil quickly, so residence
times are short. That should make the
system compact enough to be applied on
offshore platforms."
Miners have used similar techniques
to remove magnetic minerals for years,
Ko notes. More recently, she says magnetic
nanoparticles have been used in the biomedical field to separate cells from proteins
and in environmental engineering to purify
water of radionuclides, heavy metals and
nonpolar organic contaminants.

The produced water research is funded
by Maersk Oil and the Nanoparticles
for Subsurface Engineering Industrial
Affiliates Program at the University of
Texas at Austin. So far, the team has
conducted small batch experiments, Ko
reports. In the best case, she says they
can remove more than 99 percent of the
oil. "We have shown that the process
works in API brine, but oil field mixtures
are more complex. We have not yet
learned how those will affect the process,"
Ko says.
She adds that the team will need to
discover ways to produce nanoparticles
more efficiently. "We also are developing
a process for regenerating the nanoparticles
so they can be reused," she continues.
"Nanoparticles cost more to produce than
chemicals, so this will be a key for the
technology to be cost-competitive.
"We want to develop a chemical-free
regeneration process," Ko emphasizes. "By
keeping chemicals out of the process, we
will provide a technology that is environmentally friendly and more economic."
r

Specially coated nanoparticles can attach to micron-sized oil droplets, allowing them to be removed from water with
a magnet. According to University of
Texas at Austin researchers, this technique eventually may provide a compact, chemical-free method of preparing
produced water for discharge.

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