Department of Energy Invests $4.6M in Produced Water Treatment

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy has selected four projects to receive approximately $4.6 million in federal funding for cost-shared research and development (R&D). The projects will accelerate the development and commercialization of treatment technologies that reduce waste water that is being injected into disposal wells and increase water supplies for reuse. These projects are supported through funding opportunity announcement (FOA) DE-FOA-0002004, Low-Cost, Efficient Treatment Technologies for Produced Water.

This R&D effort supports the Water Security Grand Challenge, a White House-initiated, DOE-led framework to advance transformational technology and innovation to meet the global need for safe, secure, and affordable water. In particular, this FOA advances the Grand Challenge’s goal to transform the energy sector’s produced water from a waste to a resource.  

“Water and energy are interdependent resources,” said Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy Steven Winberg. “That’s why it’s so important to pursue R&D that will transform produced water from a waste to a resource.”

The National Energy Technology Laboratory will manage the projects. The selected projects all fall under Area of Interest 1:

Area of Interest 1: Low-Cost, Efficient Treatment Technologies for Produced Water

1. Non-Fouling, Low-Cost Electrolytic Coagulation and Disinfection for Treating Flowback and Produced Water for ReuseThe Arizona Board of Regents, University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ) aims to develop and test a new method for delivering a ferric ion coagulant and disinfectant for treating flowback and produced water. This method will  reuse treated water for hydraulic fracturing and water flooding at a 50 percent cost savings.

DOE Funding: $935,919; Non-DOE Funding: $234,269; Total Value: $1,170,188

2. Resource Recovery and Environmental Protection in Wyoming’s Greater Green River Basin Using Selective Nanostructured MembranesThe University of Wyoming (Laramie, WY) intends to  manufacture two different nanostructured membranes using an electrospinning/spraying technique and develop a two-stage process for cleaning water for reuse and recovering challenging compounds and oil from produced water. The prototype processes may be immediately integrated into existing management systems in the Greater Green River Basin to simultaneously improve economics and reduce the environmental footprint of existing pit storage systems.

DOE Funding: $1,198,863; Non-DOE Funding: $300,000; Total Value: $1,498,863

3. A New Membrane-Based Treatment Process for Reclaiming and Reutilization of Produced WaterTDA Research Inc. (Wheat Ridge, CO) plans to develop a new membrane-based filtration system for removing organic compounds from produced water. The treatment process will improve water quality to enable its use by the industrial sector and has the potential for use in agriculture. 

DOE Funding: $1,250,000; Non-DOE Funding: $312,500; Total Value: $1,562,500

4. Fouling-Resistant, Chlorine-Tolerant Zwitterionic Membranes for the Selective Removal of Oil, Organics and Heavy Metals From Produced Water in the Permian BasinZwitterCo Inc. (Somerville, MA) aims to develop a novel membrane technology, based on zwitterionic copolymers, that can reject key constituents from produced water while maintaining immunity to detrimental and irreversible membrane fouling. This method will offer a more cost-effective approach to for possible reuse of produced water in agriculture.

DOE Funding: $1,249,999; Non-DOE Funding: $312,500; Total Value: $1,562,499

Water is a critical resource for human health, economic growth, and agricultural productivity. DOE recognizes that water and energy systems are interdependent. To help meet the global need for safe, secure, and affordable water, the DOE is advancing transformational technology and innovation through the Water Security Grand Challenge, which features prizes, R&D investments, and other programs. To learn more about opportunities to work with the DOE and its partners to address water security, click here or email

The Office of Fossil Energy funds research and development projects to reduce the risk and cost of advanced fossil energy technologies and further the sustainable use of the Nation’s fossil resources. To learn more about the programs within the Office of Fossil Energy, visit the Office of Fossil Energy website or sign up for FE news announcements. More information about the National Energy Technology Laboratory is available on the NETL website.