Researchers at East Lansing’s MSU to Help Develop Freshwater Recovery System from Hydraulic Fracking Wastewater

Michigan State University in East Lansing is working with two other universities to develop a freshwater recovery system to extract clean irrigation water from hydraulic fracking wastewater. The reclaimed water could help western states that need it for crops and livestock.
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Researchers at MSU are working to develop a system to extract clean water from hydraulic fracking wastewater. // Photo courtesy of Michigan State University

Michigan State University in East Lansing is working with two other universities to develop a freshwater recovery system to extract clean irrigation water from hydraulic fracking wastewater. The reclaimed water could help western states that need it for crops and livestock.

The project is funded by nearly $3 million from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy. MSU is working on the project with Oregon State University and the University of Nevada Reno.

As it stands, fracking creates an enormous amount of wastewater. Oil companies in Texas and New Mexico generate enough wastewater to fill more than 1,000 Olympic-size swimming pools each day.

The MSU researchers plan to test low-grade solar or industrial waste heat to develop a new process of extracting clean water from the wastewater. They want to create a system that is modular, portable, scalable, and easily deployable in the field.

“MSU’s focus will be designing the novel multiphase heat exchangers needed for the process,” says Andre Benard, associate professor of mechanical engineering and MSU’s lead investigator for the project. “We’re working on a system that will efficiently separate, condense, and reclaim purified water from wastewater, using a heat-activated swirling nozzle and in-line demister, which helps remove droplets from the vapor stream.”

Usually, the salty wastewater is pumped deep underground through injection wells.

“There is a strong focus on delivering a low-cost wastewater treatment solution by leveraging the novel treatment system fabricated with low-cost materials,” says James Klausner, chair and MSU Foundation Professor of mechanical engineering, and one of the investigators on the project. “Ending the practice of wastewater reinjection will have a positive environmental impact.”

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy has provided $1.8 billion for research and development since 2009.

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