Last updated July 30, 2015

Just as fracking has expanded oil and gas production, so has it raised concern about safety of the water supply.
Besides consuming a substantial quantity of water, oil and gas operations also generate about 21 billion barrels of wastewater annually in the US.

Because the wastewater is brackish and contains toxic organic pollutants, it makes treatment complicated and costly.

However, a recent discovery shows promise as a wastewater treatment and as a means of reclaiming the water used in the oil and gas industry.

Austin Water Fracking wastewater includes compounds found in the oil and gas wells, hydrocarbons rich in energy.

In this new process, researchers added hydrocarbon-loving microbes to the wastewater.

As the microbes consume the hydrocarbons, it produces a chemical reaction and electric current that eliminates the salt.

So this new technology, termed microbial capacitive desalination, replaces conventional use of a battery to accomplish desalination.

Scientists use the energy to set up a positively charged electrode on one side and a negatively charged electrode on the other side of the cell to create the battery.

Scientist tested a sample of wastewater in the lab

The negative and positive ions of the dissolved salt adhere to the electrodes removing the salt from the wastewater.

While some remain skeptical of its practical application for huge amounts of wastewater reclamation, others in the industry praise the technology because it is a one-step process that generates a net energy gain.

The produced energy could help power on-site equipment which would support some of the added cost of the application.

The inventors say that their integrated method will allow water reuse on sight instead of having separate operations for removing salt and contaminants.

They have plans to automate and remotely control their operation for additional labor cost savings.

The researchers formed a start-up company, BioElectric, Inc. and are looking to scale up while controlling costs to make them competitive with current processes.

The company founders claim that their water is suitable for irrigation and flushing toilets.

With several states contemplating changing law to require wastewater reuse, microbial capacitive desalination technology shows promise.

Please contact us for more information on wastewater management in the oil and gas industry.

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