A team of clean energy researchers at the University of British Columbia has received a $500,000 grant to commercialize a new technology that converts excess carbon dioxide and wastewater from the oil and gas sector into reusable water and valuable chemicals. This development could serve the dual purpose of reducing global carbon dioxide emissions and addressing the issue of decreasing global water reserves.
“A lot of technologies look at these issues as two separate problems but we are simultaneously addressing both of them,” says David Wilkinson, a professor of chemical and biological engineering and a member of the Clean Energy Research Centre.
The technique uses an advanced low-energy dialysis system that employs excess carbon dioxide to desalinate industrial wastewater, generating water that can be reused and chemicals such as acids and carbonate salts that have industrial applications. Its carbon footprint is smaller than conventional desalination technology.
A major market is the growing oil and gas industry. In Alberta, wide-scale adoption of their method would remove several megatonnes of carbon dioxide and conserve several billion litres of water every year, says Wilkinson.
“Water management is one of the major issues facing unconventional oil and gas developments,” says Jean-Michel Gires, Chrysalix EVC Venture Partner and former CEO Total E&P Canada, a leading global oil and gas company. ”This is why water management innovation is very welcome to provide better and more sustainable solutions to these issues.”
Wilkinson’s innovation could be used in any jurisdiction where salty water and waste carbon dioxide are present.
In the U.S., the production of tight oil and shale gas, which are difficult to extract through typical drilling methods, uses 97 billion gallons of water annually. The industry wants to reduce its reliance on water as more than 50 per cent of oil and gas wells in North America are located in areas where water resources are limited.