The biological treatment of synthetic fracking fluid in an extractive membrane bioreactor: Selective transport and biodegradation of hydrophobic and hydrophilic contaminants

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Mullins, Nathan R.
Daugulis, Andrew J.
Biodegradation , Extractive membrane bioreactors , Flowback , Hydraulic fracturing , Produced water , Transport through polymers
The biodegradation of selected organic constituents present in hydraulic fracturing wastewater were examined in an extractive membrane bioreactor (EMB) operating with Hytrel™ 3548 tubing. Synthetic hydraulic fracturing wastewater was generated via an extensive literature review and contained high concentrations (1000 mg L−1) of contaminant compounds of varied hydrophobicity, viz. methyl ethyl ketone, benzene, phenol and acetic acid, as well as 30–120 g L−1 of Cl− at low pH. This hostile wastewater was circulated through the polymeric tubing, selectively transporting the organic compounds through the membrane for biological degradation by an enriched bacterial consortium. 16S rDNA analysis revealed the presence of five dominant microbial strains including Pseudomonas sp., Comamonas sp., Achromobacter sp., Lysinibacillus sp., Oxalobacter sp. within the consortium. EMBs in batch operation achieved 99% removal of methyl ethyl ketone, benzene, and phenol after 72 h and effectively removed acetic acid up to its ionization point. Continuous EMB operation provided 99% removal of benzene and phenol, 96% removal of methyl ethyl ketone, and 53% of acetic acid. The treatment of synthetic hydraulic fracturing fluid demonstrated the effectiveness of carefully selected amphiphilic polymers in EMBs for treating the hydrophilic and hydrophobic organic profile found in hydraulic fracturing wastewaters.