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Boron removal from hydraulic fracturing wastewater by aluminum and iron coagulation: Mechanisms and limitations

Chorghe, Darpan, Sari, Mutiara Ayu, Chellam, Shankararaman
Water research 2017 v.126 pp. 481-487
X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, additives, alum, aluminum, aluminum hydroxide, boron, coagulants, coagulation, ferric chloride, ferric hydroxide, hydraulic fracturing, infrared spectroscopy, iron, ligands, rheological properties, shale, turbidity, wastewater, water management
One promising water management strategy during hydraulic fracturing is treatment and reuse of flowback/produced water. In particular, the saline flowback water contains many of the chemicals employed for fracking, which need to be removed before possible reuse as “frac water.” This manuscript targets turbidity along with one of the additives; borate-based cross-linkers used to adjust the rheological characteristics of the frac-fluid. Alum and ferric chloride were evaluated as coagulants for clarification and boron removal from saline flowback water obtained from a well in the Eagle Ford shale. Extremely high dosages (> 9000 mg/L or 333 mM Al and 160 mM Fe) corresponding to Al/B and Fe/B mass ratios of ∼70 and molar ratios of ∼28 and 13 respectively were necessary to remove ∼80% boron. Hence, coagulation does not appear to be feasible for boron removal from high-strength waste streams. X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy revealed BO bonding on surfaces of freshly precipitated Al(OH)3(am) and Fe(OH)3(am) suggesting boron uptake was predominantly via ligand exchange. Attenuated total reflection-Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy provided direct evidence of inner-sphere boron complexation with surface hydroxyl groups on both amorphous aluminum and iron hydroxides. Only trigonal boron was detected on aluminum flocs since possible presence of tetrahedral boron was masked by severe AlO interferences. Both trigonal and tetrahedral conformation of boron complexes were identified on Fe(OH)3 surfaces.