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Voinovich School professor involved in fracking wastewater research

Austin Stahl January 15, 2013

water sampling Jan 2013a

 

An Ohio University research team is attempting to develop a process that can be commercialized for treating wastewater from fracking, potentially reducing the need to rely on injection wells for disposal.

Dr. Natalie Kruse, an assistant professor of environmental studies at the Voinovich School, is involved with the research team as a water quality expert. She said that the technology they are working to develop could have a big impact on how we dispose of fracking waste, but will likely be dependent on additional factors.

“I think that all comes down to economics,” Kruse said. “If the economics are right and the technology works, then it could have pretty big impact by minimizing the use of injection wells.”

Nearly $2 million of the $2.4 million project budget is being provided by the Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory and managed by the Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America. OU’s project, titled “Cost-Effective Treatment of Flowback and Produced Waters Via an Integrated Precipitative Supercritical (IPSC) Process,” was one of 15 to be selected by the DOE and is led by Ohio University Coal Research Center’s Associate Director, Dr. Jason Trembly. A total of $28 million in federal funds was awarded to these “environmentally acceptable shale gas development” projects submitted by universities, research institutions, and companies.

The amount of water needed for fracking and the process of wastewater disposal into injection wells are two of the biggest barriers to shale gas development. Developing a process to recycle the water onsite would be a win for the gas industry, by cutting down on costs for treatment and disposal—and a win for the environment, by reducing the amount of water needed and to clean up the wastewater. It would also reduce the amount of truck traffic hauling water to and from the sites, thus reducing the impact on the infrastructure of local communities.

Kruse said her role on the team is to assess and monitor the water quality to ensure it meets certain standards.

“I assess what the input water quality is and then what the output water quality should be,” she said. “There are certain constituents that we need to focus on taking out of the water.”

Kruse also said developing a process that could be commercialized, the end goal of the project, will depend on the success of the research.

“It will come down to how the research turns out,” she said. “As a team we’re pretty hopeful, but there is a pretty big research gap in this area. It would be a huge advance in disposing of the wastewater.”

And based on the rapid pace of shale resource development in Ohio, the forthcoming results of their research couldn’t be timelier for companies, communities and lawmakers.