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Chemical engineering doctoral candidate wins best presentation at national meeting

Bennett Leckrone | Mar 4, 2019
Chad Able

Chemical engineering doctoral candidate wins best presentation at national meeting

Bennett Leckrone | Mar 4, 2019

A Russ College doctoral candidate’s work on cleaning up waste leftover from hydraulic fracturing won best presentation at the American Institute of Chemical Engineers 2018 meeting.

Chemical engineering Ph.D. student Chad Able, who received word just last month that his presentation had won, performs research alongside Jason Trembly, a professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy and the Environment (ISEE).

“I’m not surprised by this result. I’m ecstatic to see his work being recognized at a national level,” Trembly said.

Able’s research focuses on ISEE’s process of removing naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM) and high salt content from waste water, or brine, produced from hydraulic fracturing. Much of Able’s work on the project involved comparing the cost of ISEE’s cleaning method to others.

“Finding alternative sources for clean water – for both industrial reuse and for drinking water – will provide huge benefits for everyone,” Able said. “We want to soften the impact that these energy capture methods have on the environment, and I think that our process very much creates for good in that respect.”

Able said his presentation was just one part of a much larger team effort.

“My own advisor, Dr. Jason Trembly, and the other members of the Russ College that I’ve worked with, have given me quite a lot of very useful feedback,” he said. “I definitely could not do this alone.”

Able noted that the brine can be treated and recycled, to support sustainability efforts.

“If we’re careful with treating the brine produced from hydraulic fracturing, there are a number of beneficial reuses – use as a high density drilling fluid and a road deicing fluid,” he said. “Our goal is to be able to promote the reuse of both this brine and the salts contained within in a way that is cost effective and beneficial to the community at large.”

As a result of his presentation award, Able has also been invited to contribute to the AIChE Journal. He hopes to continue developing on the brine project and see the implementation of ISEE’s research.

“We’ll be deploying this cleanup process in the field in the near future. We want to see if we can clean up the water at the source, and avoid all of the costs and dangers of transporting these brines back and forth,” Able said. “There’s still a lot to be done, but I’m confident that we’ll continue to see positive results after all of our hard work.”

Marissa McDaid and Colleen Carow contributed to this story.