Jonathan Brant, a University of Wyoming environmental engineer, has received a grant to develop new membrane technology to treat wastewater and capture natural resources.
University of Wyoming environmental engineer Jonathan Brant received a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop new membrane technology to treat water and capture additional natural resources.
Brant and his team plan to create two membrane prototypes, superhydrophobic and superhydrophilic, using electrospinning and electrospraying processes, according to the Casper Star Tribune. Testing will take place in Wyoming’s Green River Basin.
When operated in a series, Brant’s research could allow for the recovery of oil and benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene compounds (BTEX) found in wastewater discharge. An estimated 60% of this produced water is disposed of, carrying steep environmental and financial costs.
The billions of gallons in water discharged daily during drilling could be reused for industrial purposes.
“I think this technology will allow people to view produced water not as a weight or problem, but as another resource that we, as a state, can take advantage of,” said Brant to the Casper Star Tribune. “The margins on oil and gas can be what they are, so if you can not only improve our environmental footprint, which is certainly our goal, but also improves the economics here in the state, that is a win-win for everybody.”
The federal grant will allow Brant to conduct both economic and technical modeling on the products. In the future, he plans to create a platform for the commercial production of electrospun and electrospray membranes for water treatment and resource recovery.
“This work will result in the development of pre-commercial membrane prototypes ready for field testing,” Brant said. “It will position UW to form both a spin-off company focused on the production of novel membranes for deployment in the oil and gas industry and to take the lead in this type of membrane research in the U.S.”
The project will launch in January.