This paper presents a case study of a natural gas production site covering various technical issues related to selection of an appropriate Reverse Osmosis (RO) system. The long-term field experience indicates the necessity of the selection of appropriate pretreatment systems for fouling-free RO operational conditions. The produced water has a variety of impurities such as oil and grease, process chemicals used for corrosion and scaling control, and dehydration of natural gas, etc. This situation leads to a complicated and extremely difficult task for a membrane specialist to design RO systems, especially the pre-treatment section.
Here as part of the pretreatment selection, two types of UF membrane modules viz. spiral wound and hollow fibre, with MWCO of 8000 and 50,000 Dalton respectively, were tested in parallel with NF membranes of the spiral wound type with MWCO 200 Dalton. The UF permeate is used as feed for RO compatibility testing. Both configurations of UF failed to be compatible, due to irreversible fouling of the RO membrane. The NF membrane, however, showed interesting results, due to membrane stability in terms of cleaning and fouling. The NF plant with 50% capacity gave a recovery of 75% and the RO plant gave a recovery of 60% versus the expected 92–95%. The long-term tests have indicated that the reminder of the membranes could be installed to achieve full capacity of the plant. This study also demonstrates the importance of selection of proper pre-treatment set-up for the RO system design.