Oregon State University-Cascades is expanding as a research hub, just a few years after it became a four-year university. This month, the Bend campus announced a $2.97 million grant through the U.S. Department of Energy to develop technology for treating the wastewater of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The award comes less than a year after the DOE-funded a desalination project led by the same researcher.
“I work on taking water that is not usable for drinking or agricultural purposes, and turning it into water that you can use for a productive purpose,” explained energy systems engineering professor Bahman Abbasi.
The latest track of his research is how to siphon gray water from the residue of fracking. The other track is about creating a solar-powered way to turn seawater into drinking water, which is also supported by a multi-million dollar DOE grant.
“[That] has a lot of challenges, but one thing it has going for it is that with seawater, you know exactly what is in it ... So, you can target those salts and those contaminants, and take them out,” Abbasi said.
How to design a system that will clean up fracked water is a bigger mystery than desalination because the contamination varies a lot with location and geology.
According to a press release from OSU Cascades, Aramco, a global petroleum and natural gas company, will play a supervisory role in the project.
“We do not want to just do science experiments, we want to develop something that can and should become an industrial product that oil and gas companies want to use," Abbasi said.
The research team is based in Bend and includes specialists in thermal fluids, manufacturing, chemical processes, and control engineers from seven countries.
Oregon passed a 10-year moratorium on fracking in 2017. As the Statesman Journal reported then, there weren’t any operational hydraulic fracturing wells at the time, but there is potential for coalbed methane fracking in the Willamette Valley, according to a recent U.S. Geological Survey report.