Breakthrough water-cleansing technology from Los Alamos National Laboratory may soon be treating dirty water from the oil and gas industry at sites throughout the Mountain West.
The Los Alamos-based startup IX Power Clean Water will begin to sell its newly finished machine, dubbed OrganiClear, next week following nearly three years of development, said John “Grizz” Deal, president and CEO of IX Power (pronounced “Nine Power”). The company, which claims OrganiClear can reduce the costs for cleansing “produced water” by up to 90 percent, already has a string of commercial demonstrations scheduled for industry operators up and down the Rio Grande, from West Texas to Wyoming.
“We have a list of companies that want to see it in operation,” Deal said. “We’ll have our machines in the field by next week. We expect to have the first ones sold within the next six to 10 weeks.”
The technology, developed by LANL in collaboration with the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology and the University of Texas, can make so-called produced water clean enough for agricultural use. And, unlike standard techniques, OrganiClear leaves no waste products behind.
That represents a huge break from current technologies, which are energy-intensive and expensive. Those methods generally only filter out the most toxic elements from dirty water for re-injection back underground, since the cleansed product usually isn’t clean enough for agriculture. Operators must also dispose of waste byproducts.
That process typically accounts for up to 10 percent of production costs in the oil and gas industry, which generates about 70 billion barrels of contaminated water annually that’s laced with oil and gas particles, chemicals, metals and salts.
OrganiClear relies on a three-step process that includes filtering water with the absorbent mineral zeolite; cleansing it of organic compounds in a bioreactor with bugs, or micro-organisms, developed by LANL to eat contaminants; and then cleaning the water even further through a vapor-phase bioreactor that removes volatile, or airborne, organic compounds.
IX Power licensed the technology from LANL in 2012 and spent nearly three years building it and testing it. It’s now packaged as a compact, 1,500-pound machine that can be easily transported and deployed to remote sites.
“You just hook the dirty water hose up, it goes through the machine, and bingo! — it comes out clean at the other end,” Deal said. “There’s no power required. You just have to pump the dirty water in from the source.”
The machine sells for $225,000 and can treat up to 1,000 barrels of water per day at a cost of about 25 cents per barrel, Deal said. That compares to between $2 and $4 per barrel with standard treatment costs.
Gary Beers, owner and president of Industrial Water Permitting and Recycling Consultants in Colorado, said that, after examining OrganiClear, he believes the machine could reduce costs to about 10 percent of what operators spend today.
“I was very impressed,” said Beers, a former wastewater permit manager with the Colorado Department of Health. “It was able to treat water to a very high quality with no additional waste products left over.”
IX Power will begin commercial sales in the Mountain West, where Deal says hundreds of oil and gas service companies have expressed interest. By the summer, it will move to international markets, including Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil and China.
The company currently assembles its machines at a 2,000-square-foot facility at the Sandia Science and Technology Park in Albuquerque. As sales ramp up, IX Power expects to set up a factory in New Mexico, potentially hiring up to 200 people in the next two years.
The company has raised about $1 million in private equity from the New Mexico Angels and out-of-state investors.
“Produced water is a global problem, and this technology really cleans things up,” said New Mexico Angels President John Chavez. “It can offer some good solutions for the oil and gas industry.”
This article was written by Kevin Robinson-Avila from Albuquerque Journal and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.