Associate Director, Ohio Coal Research Center
Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering
Russ College of Engineering and Technology
As the number of hydraulic fracturing operations continues to grow in the U.S., so does the need for cleaning the wastewater byproduct of the mining process. With $2 million in state and federal grants, Dr. Jason Trembly and the Institute for Sustainable Energy and the Environment (ISEE) at the Russ College of Engineering and Technology are working to solve the problem.
"Wastewater from oil and gas wells represents the largest industrial waste stream," says Trembly, associate director of the Ohio Coal Research Center. "Technologies which provide cost effective management solutions for this waste are sought by both the government and industry."
Trembly and fellow researchers are teaming with Hess Corporation, Aquionics (which specializes in ultraviolet (UV) light treatment of water), Parker Hannifin and the Ohio Gas Association to develop, demonstrate and commercialize an innovative flowback/produced-water management process.
The process uses technologies similar to those deployed at power plants and in refining industries. In the first, low-pressure portion of the process, UV and water softening technologies used in municipal wastewater treatment remediate bacteria in the water and remove hard water ions.
Then, via a pump, high-pressure wastewater is treated in a reactor powered by gas from the well. This process transforms the water into a supercritical state – where at very high pressures and at a high temperature, the water takes on properties of both a liquid and a gas. The contaminants – salt and hydrocarbons – either precipitate out as solids or gasify into hydrogen, leaving only clean water. The salt can then be used for a variety of applications such as road de-icing, and the hydrogen is returned to the process to heat the reactor.
"The basics of the hydraulic fracturing process are similar for all shale types," says Trembly. "However, different chemical modifiers may be used in the hydraulic fracturing fluid depending upon shale characteristics.These chemical modifiers and the properties of the shale can result in wastewater with different constituents with varying concentrations.In order to handle this wide range of constituents and concentrations the IPSC Process is flexible in its design to provide a cost effective solution to regionalized wastewater issues."
The ISEE team will construct and operate a fully integrated prototype process capable of treating a barrel per day of flowback water. Data will be used to develop a detailed design for a commercial-scale unit and to further demonstrate the advantages of the process. Hess Corporation is a leading developer of shale plays within the U.S. and abroad and has significant land holdings in Ohio and will be partnering with the team to test and validate the technology.
The Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America (RPSEA), a non-profit corporation established to help meet the nation's growing need for the hydrocarbon resources produced from American reservoirs, awarded more than $1.9 million for the project wiht an additional $50,000 from Ohio Third Frontier and a matching $50,000 each from both the Russ College and the Ohio University Office of Technology Transfer.