Osmotic Power Development


Using a process called pressure retarded osmosis (PRO), water containing different amounts of dissolved solids can be used to generate power. Oil and gas production generates billions of gallons of water, much of it with very high concentrations of dissolved solids. New Mexico alone generates about 28 billion gallons of produced water annually, with 22 billion gallons coming from the oil rich Permian Basin in the southeastern corner of the state. The objective of the osmotic power team is to investigate issues that prevent produced water-based osmotic pressure systems from becoming commercially viable sources of power.

Further development of PRO using produced water will require research on two key questions:

  1. Which membrane properties and module designs will maximize power generation?
  2. Could membrane fouling be controlled to minimize the impact on PRO?

Although osmotic pressure has been observed for centuries, it was never used to harness energy with produced waters from oil and gas as the source. The proposed research will further develop osmotic power, and, if viable, will extract clean energy from “waste products,” thereby off-setting the disposal cost and lowering the carbon footprint of the oil and gas industry.

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