This paper evaluates ceramic membrane performance and fouling mechanisms in the ultrafiltration of model oil-in-water solutions with addition of NaCl. First, the work estimated the effect of main process parameters, i.e. transmembrane pressure, cross-flow velocity and NaCl content in the feed on oil rejection and permeate flux using 23 experimental design. The ultrafiltration experiments were carried out using pilot installation with commercial tubular ceramic 300 kDa membrane. Ultrafiltration data obtained using experimental design technique was used to determine the regression coefficients of polynomial equations. These equations give information on non-conjugated as well as conjugated effects of two operating parameters and one feed parameter on ceramic membrane performance in ultrafiltration process of model oil-in-water-NaCl solutions. Moreover, these equations can help to determine optimal conditions for ultrafiltration process from the point of view of membrane permeability and selectivity. Next, ultrafiltration results were analyzed using resistance-in-series model. It was found that the process is membrane resistance limited. It was also stated that, resistance caused by reversible fouling is greater than irreversible fouling resistance. Finally, pore blocking models based on modified Hermia’s equation were used to determine membrane fouling mechanism responsible for permeate flux decline with ultrafiltration time. In investigated system ceramic membrane fouling was caused by complete and intermediate pore blocking mechanisms.
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