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NETL-Funded Project Among Finalists in 2022 IChemE Global Awards
From left to right: Joseph Renk, Kyle Glazewski, Brent Brannon and Kirk Johnson.

The University of North Dakota’s Energy & Environmental Research Center’s (EERC) Produced Water Management Through Geologic Homogenization, Conditioning and Reuse (GHCR) project — funded by NETL and developed in partnership with the North Dakota Industrial Commission Oil and Gas Research Program and Nuverra Environmental Solutions — is a finalist in the Oil and Gas category of the 2022 Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) Global Awards.

The GHCR concept offers several contributions to building a cleaner and more sustainable energy landscape. With demand for water used by the energy industries expected to double in the coming years, freshwater use will need to be carefully managed to ensure communities, agriculture and industry all have adequate water supplies.

“The fact that the GHCR concept was named a finalist for the IChemE Global Awards speaks volumes about the work with the EERC,” said Joseph Renk, NETL project manager. “This project can help ensure an efficient use of water, while being an extra tool for the energy landscape of the future.”

The NETL team that coordinated with EERC and the North Dakota Industrial Commission Oil and Gas Research Program consisted of Renk, Kyle Glazewski, Brent Brannon and Kirk Johnson.

Produced water management represents a significant economic and technical challenge for oil and gas production.  Produced water volumes have increased fourfold since 2008 to approximately 640 million barrels per year (bbl/yr) in 2020 after peaking at 740 million bbl/yr in 2019. Trends suggest the annual volume of produced water will more than double by 2030. The GHCR concept addresses the challenges, such as surface storage of high-saline fluids, that hinder traditional approaches to recycling in the industry.

GHCR’s approach offers a novel approach to enabling recycling of produced water while targeting ongoing challenges for the oil and gas industry. GHCR’s approach can reduce saltwater disposal (SWD) formation pressures, which can extend the life of current SWD wells and reducing the need for new SWD well development.

By eliminating the need for surface storage, which reduces the likelihood of produced water spills, and thus protecting the surface environment, the GHCR approach uses the existing infrastructure (for instance, wells) and natural subsurface environment for management of produced water. GHCR recycling nearly eliminates the traditional recycling wastes such as highly concentrated brines and naturally occurring radioactive materials that typically need to be addressed. The recycled water can be used as is by the oil and gas industry in hydraulic fracturing completion operations and reduce the industry’s demand on freshwater.    

By enabling sustainable associated natural gas production, GHCR can contribute to the ongoing efforts of developing hydrogen as a carbon neutral energy source, which has been identified as a means to address climate change.

The winners will be announced at the IChemE Global Awards 2022 Dinner at Mercure Manchester Piccadilly Hotel, Manchester, United Kingdom on Thursday. Nov 17.

NETL is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory that drives innovation and delivers technological solutions for an environmentally sustainable and prosperous energy future. By leveraging its world-class talent and research facilities, NETL is ensuring affordable, abundant and reliable energy that drives a robust economy and national security, while developing technologies to manage carbon across the full life cycle, enabling environmental sustainability for all Americans.