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Penn. researchers awarded grant to develop new waste water recycling method

The University of Pittsburgh has been awarded a $496,000 grant from the Department of Energy to aid researchers in the development of a method for recycling gas well wastewater by using excess heat generated from power plants, reports the Pittsburgh Business Times.

Chairman of the Swanson School’s civil and environmental engineering department, Radisav Vidic, and civil and environmental engineering professor, Vikas Khanna, are attempting to tackle two problems at once. First, finding a cost-effective approach to treat flowback water and second, developing a use for the extra heat generated by power production.

Sam Kusic reports:

“The typical coal- or natural gas-powered electric plant produces a tremendous amount of low-grade heat and energy as a byproduct, but capturing and using it is not cost-effective. Similarly, hydrofracturing and carbon sequestration produces water with high salinity, which is too costly to recycle and is typically disposed as waste,” said Vidic in a statement.

The researchers are looking to determine whether the residual heat can be integrated into a process which removes contaminants from water. The first phase of the project will be to develop the technology to be used in the process. The second part will be to analyze the feasibility of applying the heat from power plant waste to the treatment procedure.

In the report, Khanna commented, “Although the technology may ultimately be cost-prohibitive for power utilities, it could be practical for private industry to develop and build near power plants, creating a win-win situation.” He continued on to say that they hope to develop a sustainable solution for the two different but related problems of water waste and heat waste.

In related news, Ohio researchers are developing tech for on-site wastewater treatment.

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