Deoiling of produced or impaired waters associated with oil and gas production represents a significant challenge for many companies. Centrifugation, air flotation, and hydrocyclone separation are the current methods of oil removal from produced water [1], however the efficiency of these methods decreases dramatically for droplets smaller than approximately 15–20 μm. More effective separation of oil-water mixtures into water and oil phases has the potential to both decrease the environmental footprint of the oil and gas industry and improve human well-being in regions such as the Gulf of Mexico.

New membrane separation processes and design of systems with advanced flow management offer tremendous potential for improving oil-water separation efficacy. However, fouling is a major challenge in membrane separation [2]. In this study, the behavior of oil droplets and their interaction with crossflow filtration (CFF) membranes (including membrane fouling) is studied using computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations. A model for film formation on a membrane surface is proposed for the first time to simulate film formation on membrane surfaces. The bulk multiphase flow is modeled using an Eulerian-Eulerian multiphase flow model. A wall film is developed from mass and momentum balances [3] and implemented to model droplet deposition and membrane surface blockage. The model is used to predict film formation and subsequent membrane fouling, and allow to estimate the actual permeate flux. The results are validated using available experimental data.

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