Removal of organic compounds from shale gas flowback water

A. Butkovskyi*, Ann-Hélène Faber, Yue Wang, K.C.F. Grolle, Roberta Hofman-Caris, H. Bruning, Annemarie P. van Wezel, H.H.M. Rijnaarts

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Ozonation, sorption to granular activated carbon and aerobic degradation were compared as potential treatment methods for removal of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) fractions and selected organic compounds from shale gas flowback water after pre-treatment in dissolved air flotation unit. Flowback water was characterised by high chemical oxygen demand and DOC. Low molecular weight (LMW) acids and neutral compounds were the most abundant organic fractions, corresponding to 47% and 35% of DOC respectively. Ozonation did not change distribution of organic carbon fractions and concentrations of detected individual organic compounds significantly. Sorption to activated carbon targeted removal of individual organic compounds with molecular weight >115 Da, whereas LMW compounds remained largely unaffected. Aerobic degradation was responsible for removal of LMW compounds and partial ammonium removal, whereas formation of intermediates with molecular weight of 200–350 Da was observed. Combination of aerobic degradation for LMW organics removal with adsorption to activated carbon for removal of non-biodegradable organics is proposed to be implemented between pre-treatment (dissolved air floatation) and desalination (thermal or membrane desalination) steps.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-55
JournalWater Research
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2018


  • Shale gas
  • Hydraulic fracturing
  • Flowback water
  • Dissolved organic carbon;
  • Aerobic degradation

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