Applied Research Laboratory Begins Innovative Project to Develop an Integrated Supercritical Water Treatment–Power Generation System

Water Treatment diagram

Scientists at the Applied Research Laboratory of the Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) have recently begun a research and development project titled “An Integrated Supercritical System for Efficient Produced Water Treatment and Power Generation.” The aim of the project is to evaluate the feasibility of an innovative, integrated, supercritical cogeneration system for cost-effectively treating water with a high content of total dissolved solids (TDS) produced during carbon dioxide (CO2) sequestration, oil extraction, and coal-bed methane recovery processes. The proposed system will be driven by methane or coal as the energy source and will generate both electricity and pure water for industrial or municipal uses. System development will include (1) process simulation, thermodynamic analysis, and techno-economic evaluation of the integrated system; (2) design, assembly, and baseline testing of the supercritical salt precipitation and steam purification systems; (3) development and characterization of advanced materials for the steam purification system; and (4) pretreatment, desalination, and purification of different produced water samples with salt concentrations of 30,000 to 200,000 mg/L (ppm). Project participants include the ISGS (lead organization), the Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the Illinois Clean Coal Institute. The Midwest Geological Sequestration Consortium, Podolsky Oil Company, and Pioneer Oil Company are collaborating with the project team by providing produced water samples.

This project may offer a transformative approach to generating power from coal or natural gas, purifying water from high-TDS saline or produced water, and recovering valuable strategic minerals that may be present in the brine, in a zero-liquid discharge plant. This research is funded by the Crosscutting Research Program of the National Energy Technology Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy ( A brief presentation describing the project can be found at