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Oil waste water treated by algae technology

19th April 2012

Company launches chemical-free way to clean oil and fracking waste water

Energy companies are estimated to pay between USD3 – USD 12 to dispose of each barrel of produced water

Technology company, OriginOil, Inc has developed an algae harvesting process which it believes will clean water produced in oil well water flooding and hydraulic fracturing.

Using a lab prototype of the technology, OriginOil researchers have been able to clarify samples of flowback water from a Texas oil well carrying heavy concentrations of dissolved organics, known as frac flowback.

 “It seems that in addition to helping create the renewable energy market of the future, we may add value to a massive existing energy market”, said the company in a statement.

The petroleum industry uses large quantities of water to help fracture or “frac” rock formations deep underground to release more oil and gas.

According to the energy newswire, Platts, the global hydraulic fracturing market grew 63 per cent from USD 19 billion in 2010 to USD 31bn in 2011, and is projected to rise a further 19 per cent in 2012.

“Our research team has learned that extracting petroleum and contaminants from water is very much like extracting algae,” said Riggs Eckelberry, OriginOil CEO.

“They are both very hard to remove without using chemicals and heavy machinery. Our innovative chemical-free, high flow and low-energy process holds promise for the billions of gallons of water used daily in the oil and gas industry worldwide.”

According to the US Department of Energy, for every barrel of oil produced globally, an average of three barrels of contaminated water is produced. In the US, the water to oil ratio (WOR) averages seven barrels of water to one of oil. In the worst cases, the WOR reaches 50 to one.

The petroleum must be efficiently reclaimed from this water, and the water itself must be cleaned. Greentech Media reports that energy companies pay between USD3 – USD 12 to dispose of each barrel of produced water, implying a potential world market value between USD 300bn and USD 1 trillion per year.

“It seems that in addition to helping create the renewable energy market of the future, we may add value to a massive existing energy market,” said Riggs Eckelberry, OriginOil’s CEO. “We will continue to investigate and report on this promising new application of our technology.”