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Water Management Technologies (WMT)

Treater to separate water from oil and tanks to store the oil.

The Water Management Technologies (WMT) Program works to ensue that American water is affordable, reliable, sustainable, and resilient for societal use. To support this vision, the program aspires to better characterize coal combustion residuals at power plants for improved treatment and ancillary resource potential. A significant emphasis is to reduce the volume of produced water disposed of during oil and natural gas production operations by developing and utilizing technologies to economically convert the waste streams into useful products. The goals of the WMT Program are the combined objectives of reducing oil and natural gas wastewater volume; reusing subsurface energy industry wastewater in water-scarce areas; mitigating induced seismicity; and recovering critical resources.

Freshwater is typically utilized during hydraulic fracturing operations to break apart the target formation and release oil and natural gas. Produced water is the water that is concurrently extracted from the subsurface after an oil or natural gas well has been stimulated and begins to produce and includes flowback and formation water. More than 25 billion barrels of produced water are generated annually in the production of oil and gas. Over the past decade, increased unconventional resource development in the United States has led to a dramatic increase in the volume of produced water requiring disposal, particularly in Texas, Oklahoma, and Appalachia. In response to an increasing volume of produced water being generated, NETL seeks to advance technologies and processes to treat produced water for use within the oilfield and outside of the oilfield.

Similarly, freshwater is typically used at fossil-based thermal electric power plants for power generation. In the United States, thermoelectric power generation accounts for more than 40% of freshwater withdrawals (143 billion gallons of water per day) and more than 3% of freshwater consumption (4 billion gallons of water per day). In addition, water resources impacted by coal combustion residuals requires expansive characterization to best determine appropriate treatment processes. Coal combustion residual and produced oil and gas water effluent also represent a potential source for a variety of critical minerals, so treatment of the waste streams can also include separation elements to capture these valuable constituents.

In response to the large volume of freshwater that is affected by thermoelectric power generation, NETL supports initiatives to develop cost-effective technology solutions to better characterize and utilize power plant effluent water and legacy waste streams, identify and utilize alternative water sources, and leverage data modeling and advanced analytics to manage water availability.

Research into effective, economical, and fit-for-purpose technologies that support the characterization, treatment, and beneficial use of oilfield-produced water and coal combustion residual effluents are imperative to effective water management systems. Specific research thrusts within the Water Energy Effluent Management Program include:

  • Treatment technologies that are designed to remove constituents that complicate the use of current or future desalination technologies.
  • Treatment technologies that enable “beneficial use,” such as the industrial or agricultural sectors.
  • Technologies that reduce or eliminate the disposal of produced water and waste streams associated with its treatment that will reduce the effects of induced seismicity and freshwater consumption.
  • The characterization and recovery of critical minerals from produced water streams and coal combustion residuals that can be marketed as value-added products, or used to support other industries, such as the development of battery technology and manufacturing capabilities.
  • Management of water impacted by flow through coal combustion residuals associated with leachate coal-based thermal electric power generation facilities.
  • Data modeling and advanced analytics to examine existing water availability on a regional basis.

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