Source: Water Online
By Sara Jerome

Fracking wastewater treatment technology developed at a national lab is about to go global.

“A company started from technology generated at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is poised to take its machines that clean water around the world. The firm is called IX Power Clean Water and specializes in the design and manufacturing of portable and on-site machines for scrubbing and filtering the wastewater that is pulled from oil and gas wells,” The Santa Fe New Mexican reported.

Research into new fracking wastewater treatment technologies is a hot arena right now because water scarcity is a pressing problem and the energy industry consumes a massive amount of water.

“The energy industry is generating trillions of gallons of contaminated water each year, some of it in California, Oklahoma, New Mexico and the Middle East, where drought and scarcity is taking its toll on groundwater,” the report said.

The amount that the fracking industry spends on wastewater treatment is expected to go way up. A paper by Bluefield Research says the number will nearly triple from $138 million last year to $357 million in 2020.

The new wastewater purifier from IX Power Clean Water has been a long time coming. But now the company is fielding orders from Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Bolivia, and Kazakhstan.

“The technology itself took some seven years to develop as a partnership between LANL, the University of Texas and the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. Yet, the underlying concept is fairly simple,” the report said.

CEO John Deal explains it like this: “Sometimes I tell people we’re plumbers. We spend a lot of time working to get water from point A to point B.”

Wastewater treated by this technology can be used for irrigation.

“The filtering, which effectively removes 99 percent of the contaminants, such as benzene, aluminum, iron and copper, does not currently meet the standards for drinking water, but what is processed can be used for industry and agriculture. It also might be able to reduce the amount of water being trucked into well sites by tanker trucks,” the report said.

For water tech startups, part of the challenge is building relationships with energy companies.

“The most difficult aspect of working in the oil and gas industry is convincing them that it works,” Deal said, per Albuquerque Business First. He added “that he’s towed the company’s compact-car-sized purifier across the country to show drillers and oil producers that it does work.”

Amid a global water scarcity crisis, many environmentalists and water policy advocates say the energy industry gets more than its fair share of water.

The fracking industry perspective: “Although the water needed for drilling and fracking operations may represent a small volume relative to other requirements, withdrawals associated with large-scale developments, conducted over multiple years, may have a cumulative impact to watersheds and/or groundwater,” according to Energy From Shale, an industry group.

The latest fracking news can be found at Water Online’s Produced Water Treatment Solutions Center.

Image credit: “Rig,” Nicholas A. Tonelli © 2012, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: