The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded $2.97M to a researcher at Oregon State University - Cascades to develop a new technology to treat hydraulic fracturing wastewater and improve the public health and environmental impact concerns associated with untreated wastewater.
The work is important because while hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, enables increased production of oil and natural gas, it is a water-intensive process that leaves behind large, contaminated pools.
The Department of Energy seeks to address that problem with an award to energy systems engineering professor Bahman Abbasi, who is working on developing a water extraction technology that is both portable and scalable, and also can be powered by solar or low-grade heat.
“By extracting clean and reusable grey water from the contaminated water, we can reduce damaging public health and environmental impacts of reinjecting or storing untreated, contaminated water,” said Abbasi.
Abbasi’s technology uses air humidification and dehumidification to siphon uncontaminated grey water from the tainted fluid. Extracted water can then be transported and reused for a range of purposes, including reuse in the fracking process and irrigation.
The technology is designed to both work in remote areas where fracking might take place and to return harvested grey water to productive use at a fraction of the cost of existing treatment systems.
The research team is based at OSU-Cascades in Bend. The researchers include thermal-fluid, manufacturing, chemical processes, and control engineers from seven countries: China, Germany, India, Iran, Nigeria, Sudan and the U.S. Michigan State University and University of Nevada, Reno are partners in the project. Aramco, a global petroleum and natural gas company, will play a supervisory role.
The award is overseen by the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, an arm of the Department of Energy. It was the largest award presented by ARPA-E’s OPEN+ program for energy-water technologies.
Abbasi’s research portfolio also includes work to develop a modular, scalable and portable means of desalinating saltwater, providing drinking water where fresh water is scarce.
Oregon State University’s campus in Bend, Ore., features outstanding faculty in degree programs that reflect Central Oregon’s vibrant economy and abundant natural resources. Nearly 20 undergraduate majors, 30 minors and options, and three graduate programs include computer science, energy systems engineering, kinesiology, hospitality management, and tourism, recreation and adventure leadership. OSU-Cascades expanded to a four-year university in 2015; its new campus opened in 2016.