This study examined the performance of a novel hybrid system of forward osmosis (FO) combined with vacuum membrane distillation (VMD) for reclaiming water from shale gas drilling flow-back fluid (SGDF). In the hybrid FO-VMD system, water permeated through the FO membrane into a draw solution reservoir, and the VMD process was used for draw solute recovery and clean water production. Using a SGDF sample obtained from a drilling site in China, the hybrid system could achieve almost 90% water recovery. Quality of the reclaimed water was comparable to that of bottled water. In the hybrid FO-VMD system, FO functions as a pre-treatment step to remove most contaminants and constituents that may foul or scale the membrane distillation (MD) membrane, whereas MD produces high quality water. It is envisioned that the FO-VMD system can recover high quality water not only from SGDF but also other wastewaters with high salinity and complex compositions.

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