Tech Professor Awarded Patent For New Water Treatment Technology

Tech Professor Awarded Patent For New Water Treatment Technology


Forward Osmosis Device Aims To Clean Oil Field Water


SOCORRO, N.M. – Tech professor Dr. Ashok Ghosh was recently awarded a patent for a new method and apparatus for removing dissolved organic solids from produced water.

US Patent #9370747 is the result of a $1.4 million grant from the Department of Energy in 2008 to develop this multi-step system to desalinate and further treat produced water.


Dr. Ashok Ghosh 


Tech Vice President of Research Dr. Van Romero said this project has broad implications for every industry that produces contaminated water. The original grant was shared by New Mexico Tech and Lea County, New Mexico.

“This is a good example of how fundamental research from the federal government can be used to develop applications in the real world,” Romero said. “We’re happy to see that the Department of Energy funding has led to this patent. Oil and gas is such a big part of the New Mexico economy. It’s important that we come up with solutions to make New Mexico oil and gas competitive on the world market.”

The oil and gas industry in southeast New Mexico produces about 400 million barrels of water every year, nearly all of which is deposited in evaporation ponds. The grant proposal aimed to find a cost-effective method of converting that water to a useful state. The patented technology could be applicable in a wide range of situations.

Ghosh’s preliminary studies showed that produced water in southeast New Mexico contains an average of 212,000 parts per million of dissolved solids. Oilfield water is only 80 percent H20. By contrast, ocean water contains only 3 percent salt and other solids.

“Many people have tried this, but there’s such a high level of total dissolved solids that it’s very difficult to find a cost-effective method,” Ghosh said. “What we’ve done is increased our throughput up to 60 to 70 times greater than other systems.”

Over the course of the project, five professors were involved. The project supported one post-doc and four graduate students and more than a dozen undergraduate students.

The treatment process employs forward osmosis to force water through a nano-membrane, filtering out dissolved solids. The system was field tested in Jal, N.M., in 2010 and in Abilene, Texas, in 2012.

Ghosh said the next step is to work on licensing the system for deployment in a commercial setting.

– NMT –