Current WRP Projects: Project 49

A New Multifunctional Sorbent for the Treatment of Coproduced Waters (CWS) from the Energy Industry

  • Project Number:  49
  • PIs: Maohong Fan, Professor, School of Energy Resources and Dept. of Chemical & Petroleum Engr.
  • Period: 03/01/2015 - 02/28/2018



Large tracts of Wyoming farmland contain high concentrations of CO32- and HCO3-. Since these could lead to significant environmental issues such as the reduced availability of micronutrients for plants, coproduced waters (CWs) high in CO32- and HCO3- cannot be used directly for irrigation in Wyoming. CWs must therefore be treated prior to application, which is a very challenging issue currently facing the fossil fuel production industry. Reducing CO32- and HCO3-—and thus salinity and alkalinity in CWs—would significantly benefit not only agriculture, but energy development in Wyoming as well. 

The proposed project seeks to develop a new technology for the on-farm or on-site reduction of salinity and alkalinity to lower carbonate (CO32-) and bicarbonate (HCO3-) from CWs discharged from the energy industry, thus protecting water and soil resources. The purpose and specific goals of the project are to reduce total concentrations of CO32- and HCO3- in discharged CWs by 90% at a lower cost per metric ton than other commercially available technologies. The project seeks to achieve these goals through the use of recently developed and commercially available TiO(OH)2 to remove carbonate (CO32-) and bicarbonate (HCO3-) in the CWs discharged from oil and gas wells (e.g., wells operated by EOG Resources Inc. and Chesapeake Energy) and oil refining companies (e.g., HollyFrontier, a company currently collaborating with Dr. Fan’s group at UW). It should be noted that TiO(OH)2 is different in structure from conventional crystal anatase TiO2 and Ti(OH)2. The TiO(OH)2 to be used in the proposed project has an amorphous structure, which makes the material highly capable for adsorption. Also, as a high-capacity sorbent, TiO(OH)2 can remove not only CO32- and HCO3- but other contaminants such as heavy metals [e.g., arsenic (As), selenium (Se), and lead (Pb)] as well.

The project will be realized by demonstrating the proposed CWs remediation technology in pilot-scale applications either at an oil well site of EOG Resources Inc. or a HollyFrontier refinery in Wyoming. Because the high salinity and alkalinity of CWs contaminated with CO32- and HCO3- degrade water and soil resources needed by farmers for agricultural production, the success of the proposed technology will directly benefit all Wyoming agricultural producers.       

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