The oil and gas industry generates a large volume of contaminated water (produced water) which must be processed to recover oil before discharge. Here, we evaluated the performance and fouling behavior of commercial ceramic silicon carbide membranes in the treatment of oily wastewaters. In this context, microfiltration and ultrafiltration ceramic membranes were used for the separation of oil during the treatment of tank dewatering produced water and oily model solutions, respectively. We also tested a new online oil-in-water sensor (OMD-32) based on the principle of light scattering for the continuous measurement of oil concentrations in order to optimize the main filtration process parameters that determine membrane performance: the transmembrane pressure and cross-flow velocity. Using the OMD-32 sensor, the oil content of the feed, concentrate and permeate streams was measured continuously and fell within the range 0.0-200 parts per million (ppm) with a resolution of 1.0 ppm. The ceramic membranes achieved an oil-recovery efficiency of up to 98% with less than 1.0 ppm residual oil in the permeate stream, meeting environmental regulations for discharge in most areas.
Keywords: ceramic membrane; light scattering; oil-in-water sensor; oily wastewater; produced water treatment; silicon carbide membrane.