WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management (FECM) released a Request for Information (RFI) on the characterization, treatment and cleaning, and management of effluent waters from oil and natural gas development and production, along with legacy wastewaters associated with thermal power generation. Water is critical to almost every phase of fossil energy operations—from resource extraction, transport, and processing to power generation. However, these activities generate large quantities of wastewater. DOE is seeking input to help lower the cost of developing and demonstrating technologies to effectively manage wastewater for beneficial end-uses including, but not limited to, irrigation of non-edible crops, hydrogen generation, and aquifer recharge and recovery. Reusing treated water for these purposes offers great potential to increase the availability of fresh water in arid and semi-arid regions of the Nation. Research related to the characterization, treatment, and management of these wastewater streams supports the Department’s goals to provide environmental justice and economic benefits to affected communities that have been affected by stressed water resources and legacy pollution.

The RFI seeks input in two areas. The first focuses on the characterization, treatment, and management of produced water from the production of oil and natural gas resources, which can include the recovery of valuable critical minerals. For example, produced waters may represent a significant domestic resource for the lithium needed for battery technologies. Treatment of produced water for reuse can be costly due to the complexity of treatment elements required to remove a wide variety of dissolved solids, chemical constituents, and organic compounds from the produced water stream. At present, nearly 50% of produced water is injected underground into saltwater disposal wells by well operators or by off-site commercial disposal companies. The disposal of produced water has been known to energize disposal zones and, in some cases, cause minor seismicity, which has made the news in states such as Ohio, Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. DOE is seeking input on advancing technologies and processes to treat and manage the produced water at lower costs for safe alternative uses outside of oil and natural gas fields.

The second area focuses on the characterization, treatment, and management of legacy wastewater from thermal powerplants, including wastewater associated with the closure and long-term management of coal ash impoundments and landfills. Technological advancements can help to characterize and treat wastewater from these sites, while improved data will help to pinpoint their locations and assess potential health risks to our local communities. Like the reuse of produced water, there is a significant opportunity to develop alternative water sources and recover beneficial products for various end uses. For example, characterizing water from the many hundreds of ash impoundments scattered across the United States can facilitate site clean-up and enable the potential recovery of critical materials.

DOE is seeking input from industry, universities, state and local governments, non-governmental organizations, and other stakeholders to help address the scientific, engineering, and regulatory challenges of developing new treatment technologies to make wastewater safe for the environment and a valuable resource for the American public. The information collected may be used for internal DOE planning and decision-making purposes across its research and development portfolio, including but not limited to: determining potential new areas of focus and innovation, identifying challenges and knowledge gaps, identifying regional issues for consideration, and determining the potential for clean energy careers, all while considering the potential impacts to local communities.

For more information on this RFI, click here.

FECM funds research, development, demonstration, and deployment projects to decarbonize power generation and industrial production, to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and to mitigate the environmental impacts of fossil fuel production and use. 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 website, sign up for FECM news announcements, and visit the NETL website.