Innovative Research on the Energy–Water Nexus
As the population of the United States continues to increase, demand for ever-increasing amounts of energy to support social and economic growth will require additional water. We’re committed to finding innovative solutions that expand water resource options for the energy industry.
For three decades, we’ve investigated, developed, and demonstrated innovative approaches for water utilization and quality management. Our focus on partnerships and stakeholder-driven input and applied research leads to intelligent solutions that solve real-world problems.
Water for Oil & Gas Production
Water is a critical ingredient for oil and gas extraction. Development of one of the largest unconventional oil and gas plays in North America is occurring in North Dakota, with hundreds of billions of barrels of oil estimated in that area. While development of these resources clearly enhances the nation’s energy security, a number of challenges are associated with that development, including the need for substantial volumes of water for hydraulic fracturing operations at a lower cost. We’re working to investigate and accelerate development of new options to reduce freshwater consumption and decrease water costs related to Bakken production operations.
Water Minimization in Thermoelectric Facilities
The electrical industry is the largest domestic user of water, accounting for about 40% of all freshwater withdrawals in the nation, with 90% used in fossil- and nuclear-based electricity generation. At the same time, global water resources are becoming more difficult to secure as water consumption outstrips the pace of renewal. The question of adequate supplies of water and the impact of power plant operations are, therefore, receiving growing attention. We’re working with the U.S. Department of Energy and a variety of corporate partners to reduce the water used in power systems.
Water Associated with Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage (CCUS)
We’re assessing, developing, and demonstrating technologies that minimize water use and provide alternative water supplies for a range of energy-producing industries, including coal combustion, coal gasification, coalbed methane extraction, and oil and natural gas production. A key focus area is the water issues related to CCUS, including the additional energy and water demands of carbon capture at a power plant, water associated with CO2 transport, and water associated with geologic carbon storage.
- Oil and gas produced water recycling and injection
- Water resource assessment for oil and gas extraction
- Water recovery from combustion flue gases and improved cooling systems for water minimization
- Water demand/supply/conservation assessments and strategies
- Municipal and industrial water and wastewater treatment
- Water conservation strategies
- Flood and drought mitigation
- Soil and water sampling, monitoring, assessment, and remediation
- Storm water management
- Watershed-scale water quality and quantity modeling
- Paleoclimatic trend research
- Anaerobic and waste/wastewater to energy technologies
- Conventional and nonconventional microbiological research
Our work with the U.S. Department of Defense led to technology that reduces water use in large office building cooling systems.
Pilot-testing high-total dissolved solids water treatment technologies at our demonstration facility in western North Dakota.