Researchers Hoping to Reduce Water Use at Power Plants
Researchers at West Virginia University are testing an idea to help save freshwater resources by combining wastewater from power plants with wastewater from fracking.
The Dominion Post reports the power industry is the biggest water user in West Virginia. Nationally, it is the second biggest, behind agriculture. And fracking produces a lot of wastewater, called produced water — maybe 500,000 to 1 million gallons per well.
Thermoelectric plants use water in heat exchangers. Over time some of the water evaporates and the natural salts in the water become concentrated to the point where they could foul the cooling system. That water is called blowdown water. It has to be treated before it can be further recirculated or returned to a river or lake.
Meanwhile, produced water from fracking contains other substances that could harm the cooling towers, like magnesium, calcium and strontium. But when the two wastewater streams are mixed together, the chemicals combine in a way to precipitate out of the water. This produces clean water to recirculate as well as two beneficial byproducts: chlorine to disinfect the cooling system and 10-pound brine that has several industrial applications.
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