Fracking relies on forcing millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals deep into the earth, creating fissures that allow natural gas or oil to escape and be recovered. Wastewater returns to the surface where it is treated and released into surface water, injected back into the earth, or recycled for use for fracking of other wells. Chemicals present deep below the Earth's surface, as well as chemicals used in fracking may contaminate water.
Evaporation and filtration, the current treatment methods, are expensive. Moreover, they don't eliminate chemicals, they simply reduce them to a concentrated form. Industrial scale evaporation and filtration are energy intensive, and both methods leave behind a chemical residue that presents a disposal challenge.
The research team understands public concerns about the environmental impact of fracking, as well as industry concerns about misinformation related to risks, Elde says. A leading research institution, the University of Minnesota has reached out to the business community, via its large alumni network, to work together on these issues.
"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," Wackett says. "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."
Earlier this year, Wackett and his team als
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University of Minnesota