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Department of Energy Invests $4.6 Million in Produced Water Treatment

A study of recent Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) data tracking oil and gas waste management in the state reported approximately 57 million bbl of liquid waste were produced in 2017, 95% of which was produced water. Image source: Getty Images

The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy has chosen four projects to receive approximately $4.6 million in federal funding for cost-shared research and development (R&D). The projects are intended to accelerate the development and commercialization of treatment technologies to reduce waste water that is being injected into disposal wells and increase water supplies for reuse. The projects are supported through funding opportunity announcement (FOA) DE-FOA-0002004, Low-Cost, Efficient Treatment Technologies for Produced Water.

This R&D effort supports the Water Security Grand Challenge, a White House-initiated, DOE-led framework to advance transformational technology and innovation to meet the global need for safe, secure, and affordable water. In particular, this FOA advances the Grand Challenge’s goal to transform the energy sector’s produced water from a waste to a resource. 

“Water and energy are interdependent resources,” said Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy Steven Winberg. “That’s why it’s so important to pursue R&D that will transform produced water from a waste to a resource.”

Three of the projects involve development of membranes for water treatment, while another looks at disinfection for treating flowback and produced water.

Nonfouling, Low-Cost Electrolytic Coagulation and Disinfection for Treating Flowback and Produced Water for Reuse. The Arizona Board of Regents, University of Arizona (Tucson, Arizona), aims to develop and test a new method for delivering a ferric ion coagulant and disinfectant for treating flowback and produced water. This method will reuse treated water for hydraulic fracturing and waterflooding at a 50% cost savings.

DOE funding Non-DOE funding Total Value
$935,919 $234,269 $1,170,188

Resource Recovery and Environmental Protection in Wyoming’s Greater Green River Basin Using Selective Nanostructured Membranes. The University of Wyoming (Laramie, Wyoming) intends to manufacture two different nanostructured membranes using an electrospinning/spraying technique and develop a two-stage process for cleaning water for reuse and recovering challenging compounds and oil from produced water. The prototype processes may be immediately integrated into existing management systems in the Greater Green River Basin to simultaneously improve economics and reduce the environmental footprint of existing pit storage systems.

DOE funding Non-DOE funding Total Value
$1,198,863 $300,000 $1,498,863

A New Membrane-Based Treatment Process for Reclaiming and Reutilization of Produced Water. TDA Research Inc. (Wheat Ridge, Colorado) plans to develop a new membrane-based filtration system for removing organic compounds from produced water. The treatment process will improve water quality to enable its use by the industrial sector and has the potential for use in agriculture.

DOE funding Non-DOE funding Total Value
$1,250,000 $312,500 $1,562,500

Fouling-Resistant, Chlorine-Tolerant Zwitterionic Membranes for the Selective Removal of Oil, Organics and Heavy Metals From Produced Water in the Permian Basin. ZwitterCo Inc. (Somerville, Massachusetts) aims to develop a novel membrane technology, based on zwitterionic copolymers, that can reject key constituents from produced water while maintaining immunity to detrimental and irreversible membrane fouling. This method will offer a more cost-effective approach to possible reuse of produced water in agriculture.

DOE funding Non-DOE funding Total Value
$1,249,999 $312,500 $1,562,499

In February, Chevron Technology Ventures (CTV) announced three winners of the Chevron Tech Challenge for Produced Water, a challenge created as part of a cooperation agreement between the DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy and CTV in support of the Water Security Grand Challenge. FE provided subject matter expertise to CTV.

The winners were

  • Crystal Clearwater Resources (Frisco, Texas)

  • Mangrove Water Technologies ( Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada)

  • Techverse Inc. (Cary, North Carolina)

The winners each received a $25,000 award in recognition for their innovative technologies and solutions. Their proposals were selected based on criteria that included minimization of waste streams, technology design, and per-barrel cost.

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