Produced Water turning a waste into a resource

It takes seven barrels of water to produce one barrel of crude oil.

98 percent of used hydraulic fracturing fluid is injected back into the ground...

Or stored in large evaporation ponds that can impact air quality in Utah's Uintah Basin.

But what if we could do something useful with that water?

At Utah State University, biological engineering researchers are using spent hydraulic fracturing fluid - called produced water - to grow microalgae.

The algae-based biomass is grown on rotating drums and can be used as a feedstock to produce biofuels, methane-based biogas, plastics and more.

The algae may also break down petroleum compounds in the wastewater, an added benefit that further improves water quality.

"We're taking a waste - in this case wastewater from fossil fuel extraction - and converting it into biofuel." -- Ron Sims, Professor, Biological Engineering

It's all part of ongoing efforts by researchers and state leaders to make energy development in Utah more sustainable.

"Utah residents understand the water-energy nexus very well. The availability of one is critically dependent upon the other." -- Ron Sims

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