University and Industry-led Projects Will Advance Technologies to Treat and Reuse Wastewater and Extract Valuable Resources from Energy Waste Streams

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management (FECM) today announced the selection of four research and development (R&D) projects to receive nearly $10 million for the treatment and management of produced water—or wastewater associated with oil and natural gas development and production—and the management of legacy wastewater associated with coal-based thermal electric power generation facilities. Projects will advance technologies to manage the wastewater safely and effectively for beneficial end-uses, such as irrigation of non-edible crops, hydrogen generation, and aquifer recharge and recovery. These same energy production waste streams also contain recoverable critical minerals and materials, including rare earth elements, essential to manufacturing clean energy technologies such as solar panels, wind turbines, and hydrogen fuel cells that will help America reach the Biden-Harris Administration’s ambitious climate goals.

“From resource extraction, to transport and processing, to power generation—energy operations fueled by oil, gas, and coal produce large quantities of wastewater,” said Brad Crabtree, Assistant Secretary of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management. “Treatment of this water can be expensive, so today DOE is investing in R&D projects that will help reduce the cost of making this water safe for non-potable uses—while also extracting rare earth elements and other critical minerals to reduce our reliance on foreign sources of these vital materials.”

Clean water is crucial to the health and economic prosperity of our nation, but while demand from the energy sector for this essential resource has grown, aquifers in arid and semi-arid regions of the country have become depleted by drought conditions made worse by a warming climate. By treating and reusing the large volumes of wastewater generated through fossil fuel production and use, the projects announced today will help to make wastewater safe for the environment and a valuable resource for the American public, especially for water-stressed communities.

The projects will focus on advancing technologies and lowering costs to reduce wastewater volume, achieve beneficial reuse of industrial wastewater in water-scarce areas, and recover critical resources such as rare earth elements. Projects will also address the development of infrastructure to efficiently transport and treat this wastewater to reduce environmental impacts related to trucking as well as minor seismic events that have occurred through the practice of injecting produced water into underground saltwater disposal wells.

DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), under the purview of FECM, will manage the selected projects. A detailed list of the selected projects can be found here. Additional selections may be made at a later date.

FECM minimizes environmental and climate impacts of fossil fuels and industrial processes while working to achieve net-zero emissions across the U.S. economy. Priority areas of technology work include carbon capture, carbon conversion, carbon dioxide removal, carbon dioxide transport and storage, hydrogen production with carbon management, methane emissions reduction, and critical minerals production. To learn more, visit the FECM websitesign up for FECM news announcements, and visit the NETL website.