Approximately 98 percent of produced water generated from oil and gas exploration and production is deep well injected, which is both expensive and wasteful, according to the Argonne National Laboratory. Researchers at New Mexico State University’s Department of Civil Engineering are working to develop solutions to the waste, studying water reuse and treatment, including reverse osmosis membrane systems that desalt the water.
A team of researchers in New Mexico State University’s Department of Civil Engineering, led by Assistant Professor Pei Xu, is working to develop solutions to the problems related to produced water.
“Oil and gas are buried underground and are mixed with water for extraction,” Xu said. “When we get oil and gas out of the ground, we also have the produced water that is the by-product. The quantity of the oil and gas produced water is significant in the United States.”
Xu’s goal is to find safe, beneficial uses for the produced water. This first requires examining the characteristics of produced water — its varying levels of salinity and both organic and inorganic contaminants — and how to treat the water to remove those contaminants.
“After we have a very good understanding of the water’s characteristics, then our focus shifts to develop the treatment technologies to treat this water,” Xu said.