the significance of the membrane distillation system to the hydraulic

Session B4
Disclaimer — This paper partially fulfills a writing requirement for first year (freshman) engineering students at the
University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering. This paper is a student, not a professional, paper. This paper
is based on publicly available information and may not be provide complete analyses of all relevant data. If this paper is used
for any purpose other than these authors’ partial fulfillment of a writing requirement for first year (freshman) engineering
students at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, the user does so at his or her own risk.
Sophie Rice, [email protected], Mahboobin 4:00, Victoria Zubizarreta, [email protected], Mahboobin 10:00
Revised Proposal—The recent development of hydraulic
fracturing has revolutionized the oil and natural gas industry
as a way to procure natural gas from deep wells under shale
bedrock. Hydraulic fracking involves pumping water into the
ground to release the natural gas and oil stored in the
bedrock. The process results in the contamination of the
water. Fracking water comes out as a highly saline solution
often containing chemicals such as chloride, bromide, and
radium, along with flammable natural gas mixed into the
water itself. The water is hard to clean and often ends up
discharged into local streams and other water sources [1].
This is especially problematic and ethically debatable in
areas already facing water shortages [2]. This very serious
environmental concern leads to questioning whether the
benefits of fracking outweigh its consequences. Much
research has been dedicated to addressing this issue. This
research is vital since clean water is an invaluable resource.
General Electric, along with other groups, has been working
to create a new membrane distillation system which can clean
large amounts of this contaminated fracking water. The
membrane distillation process involves the use of a vapor
compressor to initialize a reverse osmosis in which intense
pressure is used to force water molecules from wastewater
through a semipermeable membrane and into clean water,
leaving the pollutants behind. This differs from the previous
boiling and cooling chamber method in that it uses a lot less
energy [3]. This research is very enticing since its outcomes
could potentially benefit the Western Pennsylvania area, not
to mention the world. The Western Pennsylvania region
contains a major fracking industry and a great deal of
afflicted water. It has suffered many controversies in the past
due to fracking water contaminating clean aquifers. In turn,
this contamination has polluted the drinking water of many
residents. This issue should be of great concern to everyone
living in the Marcellus Shale Region, which happens to be
where the University of Pittsburgh resides. Environmental
issues are of the utmost importance, especially when they
affect our precious resources. In 2011, General Electric
stated that it would spend 10 billion dollars in research for
cleaner energy between 2011 and 2020, which resulted in the
discovery of the membrane distillation system. Since the
technology was developed, the improvements have been
enormous, resulting in General Electric starting to implement
and test the reliability and success of the new system. To
conclude, hydraulic fracking is very beneficial to the world,
but like every development, it has costs, so new technologies
such as the membrane distillation system must also be
developed. This new innovation could potentially change the
field of fracking enormously, and therefore, have a dramatic
positive impact on the energy industry.
[1] N. Warner. (2013). “Impacts of Shale Gas Wastewater
Disposal on Water Quality in Western Pennsylvania.” ACS
[2] N. Banerjee. (2015). “Fracking Study on Water
Contamination Under Ethics Review.” Inside Climate News.
[3]K. Bullis. (2013) “One Way to Solve Fracking’s Dirty
N. Banerjee. (2015). “Fracking Study on Water
Contamination Under Ethics Review.” Inside Climate News.
This article by Yale graduate and environmental reporter
Neela Banerjee includes a biased study about methane levels
in well water. A large energy company paid a scientist to
report on a study showing that there was no more methane in
groundwater near fracking sites than elsewhere. The article
will be referenced with regard to ethics of the big oil
industries and their fracking practices in denying the pollution
of groundwater.
K. Bullis. (2013) “One Way to Solve Fracking’s Dirty
University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering
Sophie Rice
Victoria Zubizarreta
This article, found on the MIT Technology Review,
discusses the membrane distillation process that General
Electric has developed to revolutionize its fracking industry.
In addition, it describes the contamination of two to five
million gallons of fresh water resulting from the fracking
process and asserts that this process could make the water
reusable. This source will be used to show that major
companies are investing in this important technology.
This article, published by the American Chemical Society,
discusses the potentials of mechanical vapor compression,
membrane distillation, and forward osmosis to clean and
reuse high-salinity wastewater. It discusses the use of the
hydrophobic, microporous membrane in membrane
distillation, which permits only the toxins, and not the water,
to enter. This article will be used to describe the detailed
process of membrane distillation.
K. Gregory, R. Vidic, D. Dzombak. (2011). “Water
Management Challenges Associated with the Production of
Shale Gas by Hydraulic Fracking” GeoScienceWorld.
This chapter from Elements is found as an ebook on the
GeoScienceWorld website. This chapter discusses current
methods of fracking waste water management including
underground injection and discharge to publicly owned
treatment centers. This chapter will be used to describe the
current methods for water disposal and their insufficiencies.
In addition, there is a chart that will show the potential
amounts of natural gas gained by fracking.
R. Vidic. (2013). “Impact of Shale Gas Development on
Regional Water Quality.” American association for the
This online magazine article published by a number of
engineering professors from the University of Pittsburgh
shows how much water is used in hydraulic fracking, and the
fate of that water once it is no longer needed. This source will
be used for its illuminating charts and its detailed information
on the composition of fracking water. It also addresses the
ethics involved in fracking.
R. McGinnis. (2012). “Pilot demonstration of the NH3/CO2
forward osmosis desalination process on high salinity brines.”
This book chapter, part of the book Desalination, volume
312, explains forward osmosis through a semi-permeable
membrane as a way to purify highly saline solutions and
recover fresh water as a result. It includes a variety of easy to
understand information about fracking wastewater. The
chapter will be used for information on water purification and
the osmosis through a semi-permeable membrane process as
well as data on energy amount used.
P.Wang, T. Chung. (2014) “Recent Advances in Membrane
Configuration Design and Application Exploring.” Journal of
This article is extracted from the Journal of Membrane
Science, which provides reviews and original research on
membrane structures, formations, etc. The article illustrates
the formation of a microporous membrane through a sintering
This process gives the membrane strong
hydrophobic qualities and decreases the membrane wetting
that results in membrane failures. This article will be used to
describe the creation of the membranes involved in membrane
P. Reig. (2014). “EXECUTIVE PERSPECTIVE: 40% of
shale-rich countries face water stress.” World Resources
This article published by the World Resources Institute
chronicles how hydraulic fracking puts water stress on areas
that use their water for fracking. It contains very clear maps
and charts of areas with natural gas, areas that utilize
hydraulic fracking, and areas under water stress. This article
will be used for its descriptive graphics. There are also useful
statistics that may be included.
N. Warner. (2013). “Impacts of Shale Gas Wastewater
Disposal on Water Quality in Western Pennsylvania.” ACS
This source, from a professional publication with a 2013
copyright from the American Chemical Society, discusses the
dangers of polluted fracking wastewater getting into
groundwater. The article details how much contaminated
water is produced and how it affects surrounding water
samples near the Marcellus shale formation. Information
from this article gives a good description of chemicals found
in fracking water and will clarify why it needs to be better
D. Shaffer, L. Chavez, M. Ben-Sasson, et al. (2013).
“Desalination and Reuse of High-Salinity Shale Gas
Produced Water: Drivers, Technologies, and Future
Directions.” Environmental Science & Technology. (Online
Sophie Rice
Victoria Zubizarreta
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