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US investment in produced water treatment research

PWS president Lisa Henthorne takes a quick look at the encouraging amount of funding and support that the US produced water space has recently been given by government entities.

One of the bright spots in our industry these days (and we all need a bright spot or two in our lives right now) is the significant funding and leadership from US federal and state governments towards research related to produced water treatment.

Last year, the US Department of Energy (DoE) initiated the Water Security Grand Challenge, with four produced water research grants awarded in late 2019 totaling $4.6 million. The initiative is multi-faceted in its scope to advance technology to meet global needs for safe, secure and affordable water, and one of its five goals is focused on transforming energy sector wastewater (including produced water) into a resource. Another $4 million is expected to be granted in 2020 for produced water projects.

Additionally, the DoE’s Water-Energy Desal Hub – the National Alliance for Water Innovation (NAWI), led by Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, Oakridge National Lab and the National Renewable Energy Lab – was established last year to fund early-stage research in energy-efficient desalination and associated water treatment technologies to secure affordable supplies from non-traditional water sources. Altogether, the DoE is earmarking $100 million in funding over five years with an additional $34 million in cost-share. A significant portion of NAWI’s research program will address produced water issues as they relate to treating high-salinity brines, recovering value from produced water minerals and addressing the energy intensity of desalinating high-salinity streams such as produced water. NAWI’s first request for proposals will be released this month on the topic of Innovations in Intensified Brine Management.

At the state level, New Mexico has been proactive in bringing the produced water community together to discuss research needs and coordinate resources, especially related to unconventional production. The New Mexico Produced Water Research Consortium (NMPWRC), which is a collaboration between the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) and New Mexico State University, aims to lead US efforts in advancing produced water treatment solutions. We look forward to NMPWRC’s research activities kicking off in October 2020, following final guidance from the NMED and the state’s Oil Conservation Division.

I encourage everyone to find a way to contribute towards innovation in our industry –through either one of the above-mentioned research programs, your own company’s activities, or by learning about and supporting what others are doing. Also, please feel free to comment and let our membership know of other produced water management research initiatives that are underway. We appreciate knowing about all the bright spots that are out there!

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