Date of Award

January 2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Petroleum Engineering

First Advisor

Kegang Ling

Second Advisor

Michael Mann


Recent advances in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have significantly increased freshwater usage. Oil and gas wells in the United States tend to generate over 23 billion barrels of produced water per year of which about 32 million b/day are high total dissolved solids (TDS > 200,000 mg/L) while the world is gradually running short of fresh water. Environmental concerns associated with water usage and concentrated wastewater disposal have led to the growing consideration to treat and recycle brine for reusable purposes like crop irrigation, livestock watering and hydraulic fracturing.

In this study, an emerging and promising technology called supercritical water desalination (SCWD) has been developed. The aims of this study were to treat Bakken oil field brine, examine the applicability of the product water for reuse and evaluate the performance of supercritical water desalination. The results showed that at 240 bar water recovery efficiency from Bakken produced water increased with critical temperatures T_c above 400⁰C. Subsequently, the investigated additives proved to be excellent in the destruction of organics (~ 98% reduction efficiency) and targeted salt precipitation (~ 99% salt removal). The resulting ion analysis of the effluent stream demonstrates the SCWD approach as a highly efficient means for water recovery (~ 99% efficiency) with potential for zero liquid discharge (ZLD). SCWD is the most efficient, reliable and environmentally friendly technology, compared to conventional desalination treatments like reverse osmosis (RO), multistage flash (MSF), multieffect distillation (MED) and vapor compression distillation (VCD). The evaluation of the product water for livestock watering, irrigation and hydraulic fracturing demonstrates the SCWD technology as the most robust standalone method to treat hypersaline brine and produce high-quality product water.