Researchers develop biotechnology to purify fracking wastewater
MINNEAPOLIS and ST. PAUL, Minn. — A University of Minnesota research team has developed an innovative biotechnology to purify wastewater from hydraulic fracturing operations.
The process involves the use of naturally occurring bacteria embedded in porous silica materials to biodegrade contaminants in fracking wastewater, a technology the researchers originally developed to remove agricultural pesticides from soil and water.
They now have the ability to customize the technology to degrade chemicals in water used for fracking. Their goal is to make the water suitable for re-use in fracking of other wells and significantly reduce the amount of water used by industry.
The effort has earned a new $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation’s Partnerships for Innovation (NSF-PFI) program, which pairs academic researchers with companies to transfer academic knowledge to the private sector and produce innovative technologies that benefit the public. This is the first NSF-PFI grant awarded in Minnesota.
“The University of Minnesota is not taking sides in the fracking debate, but as a land-grant research institution, it is uniquely positioned to carry out necessary and beneficial research,” said lead researcher Larry Wackett. “There are many efforts ongoing to improve the treatment of water used in fracking and we feel that biotechnology can play a significant role in the overall effort.”