Desalinating Fracking Water

Tech Thursdays with ATS – Desalinating Fracking Water

Happy Thanksgiving! If you need a break between stuffing, read on to learn about new research that uses electrodialysis to desalinate water used for hydraulic fracturing for this week’s Tech Thursday post.

If you haven’t been following us, developing technologies is a subject that is near and dear to ATS considering that we test for and remove outdated storage tanks and even developed our own tank testing equipment. Scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs are constantly creating new technologies that make our daily lives easier, streamline difficult processes, improve the environment, and generally bring us closer as a global community. Every Thursday, ATS brings you a new “tech” that we think is worth learning about!

Hydraulic fracturing, commonly called fracking, is the method through which natural gas is extracted from the ground by inserting high pressure water. A concern of fracking has been that the water used in the process picks up salt and produces a byproduct with a high level of salinity that requires treatment before it can be released. How to treat this water is where our technology comes in.

Electrodialysis is not exactly a new technology. The method works by using the electric charge to move the salt ions from one solution to another. Even the capability for electrodialysis as a method for removing saline from water has been around for decades. Historically, electrodialysis had been used to remove salt from water with low levels of salinity. However, recently researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals have studied the use of electrodialysis as a way to remove the salt from the water used for hydraulic fracturing oil and natural gas from the earth.

During this new process, the water is first treated to filtration followed by repetitive electrodialysis treatments. The resulting water is not supposed to be purified to the level of being potable, or used as drinking water, according to the team behind this strategy. Instead the goal of the new study technology is to treat the water enough so that it can be reused in the fracking process. The most exciting part of this research would be that electrodialysis “can reduce or eliminate the burden of the need for fresh water.” This development could lead to a more sustainable future for hydraulic fracturing.