Water lab

The Texas Water and Energy Institute provides a multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional approach to complex issues dealing with produced water, wastewater, and drinking water.  The work includes: water quality, water-energy interdependencies, water security, water infrastructure protection, and related social and policy issues. The Institute is envisioned to develop fit-for-purpose energy efficient and cost-effective advanced technologies that are critical for the treatment of produced water to minimize adverse environmental impacts including groundwater depletion and induced seismicity. The treated water will be recycled and reused for hydraulic fracturing, irrigation, and municipal use to benefit the state and the nation.  

Goal

TWEI aims to develop a multi-institutional curriculum to educate a wide array of students in a broad range of related disciplines. This entails collaborative efforts with stakeholder entities including engineers, soil and biology scientists, social scientists, students, tribal nations, regulators, and policy makers. 

Vision for the Future

Texas Water and Energy Institute (TWEI) will promote convergent research by integrating expertise, knowledge, and tools from various disciplines of academia, industry, and government agencies to form a coherent innovation ecosystem, and develop a productive workforce. Expertise and resources from multiple academic institutions will be leveraged to address research problems in water intelligence, machine learning and data analytics, users and ground water banking, recycle and reuse water treatment technologies, recycling options, chemical and physical characterization, renewable energy based water technologies, energy assessments, and performance evaluation of sustainable water treatment technologies, socio-economic issues.   

Understanding The Permian

The Permian Basin is among the most important oil-producing regions in the world. Drilling and production and the necessary supporting industries generate business activity not only in the region, but across the state and the nation. This economic activity leads to substantial taxes to the Federal, State, and local governments. Billions in severance taxes on Permian Basin production are paid to the State every year. The benefits of energy security to the US are enormous, as are the improvements in the trade balance fostered by energy exports.   

This is a challenge in a region where arid conditions have been exacerbated by severe drought. In addition, unconventional oil production requires large volumes (17 million gallons per well) of water to hydraulically fracture the low permeability shales to release oil and gas. During oil and gas production, one barrel of oil generated results in several barrels of flow back/produced water. Conventional wastewater plants are inadequate to treat produced water due to high dissolved solids (170,000 mg/l), naturally occurring radioactive materials, heavy metals, oil and grease, and microbes so produced water is discharged to the subsurface.  

Challenges

The challenges with produced water treatment methods are economics of scale, reliability, waste and product generation, and energy consumption. Current industry practice is the subsurface disposal of produced water which leads to increased pressures that can contaminate overlying aquifers and may also result in induced seismicity. A global grand challenge is the management of produced water and a comprehensive strategy for reuse. These are two challenging concepts, partly because of public perception. The Institute will develop strategies to overcome social barriers of adoption and acceptance of using brackish water amongst different groups, from farmers to consumers.