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Improved recycling in hydraulic fracturing

01 September 2013

NEW  high-efficiency, durable filters have been developed by chemical engineers at The University of Texas at Austin to improve mobile water recycling systems used in hydraulic fracturing, the oil and gas drilling process known as fracking. The filters may significantly reduce the amount of water and energy that fracking requires.

Professor Benny Freeman and his research team in the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering completed a study that shows their membrane-based filtration system improves the efficiency of treating and safely reusing water used for fracking at drill sites. The study shows that the team’s filter can produce up to 50 per cent more water for reuse compared with other filtration systems, greatly reducing demand for fresh water. In addition to producing a higher volume of purified water, the new filter system also operates at lower pressure than traditional systems, meaning significant energy savings. The findings were recently published in the Journal of Membrane Science.

The technology could help reduce the environmental impact and financial costs of fracking, which has seen intense growth during the past decade because of advances in horizontal drilling. As production continues to increase, the National Petroleum Council estimates that 80 per cent of wells drilled during the next decade will require fracking.

“Recycling flowback water on-site offers a cost-effective solution that conserves water and energy, saves roads from wear and tear and keeps production costs down,” said Dan Miller, a UT Austin researcher on Freeman’s team who helped develop the filtration system as a graduate student. “Everyone who uses water and natural gas can benefit from this technology.”

The team’s water recycling system is licensed by The University of Texas at Austin to Advanced Hydro Inc, which was founded by Freeman in 2009.




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