Freshwater Recovery System for Hydraulic Fracturing (FRESH-Frac) using a Thermally-Actuated Nozzle-Demister

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OPEN 2018
Corvallis, Oregon
Project Term:
05/13/2019 - 03/30/2024

Critical Need:

Waste water management is challenging for many municipal and industrial sectors. The oil and gas industry produces a massive amount of water from underground reservoirs through its wells. Approximately 9 barrels of water is produced for every barrel of oil, and it is typically contaminated with a variety of minerals, heavy metals, and organic compounds. Treating this wastewater is extremely important, due to its health and environmental impacts and abundance, but also technologically problematic due to its many impurities. Conventional water treatment technologies are insufficient to treat fracking wastewater because of the extremely high percentage and numerous types of contaminants, or because the cost or energy requirement is excessive. At the same time, the agricultural sector is a primary consumer of increasingly scarce freshwater, accounting for 63% of U.S. surface water withdrawals, according to the USGS.

Project Innovation + Advantages:

Oregon State University (OSU) is developing a system for extracting clean irrigation water from hydraulic fracturing wastewater using low-grade solar or industrial waste heat. The system would efficiently separate, condense, and reclaim water vapor from wastewater using a heat-activated swirling nozzle combined with an in-line demister. OSU’s technology would be modular, portable, scalable, and deployable at a fraction of the cost of existing treatment systems. If successful, the treated water would be suitable for agricultural use, providing an abundant new water source and easing competition for this vital resource.

Potential Impact:

OSU’s system will demonstrate a module that can produce 25 kilograms per hour of irrigation water from saturated fracking wastewater.


The proposed system offers a sustainable solution for the increasing water demand in industrial and oil and gas sectors by recycling the otherwise wasted water, without putting pressure on increasingly scarce fresh water resources also in demand by local communities for agricultural and municipal purposes.


The proposed technology can treat highly contaminated wastewater from fracking and produce gray water, irrigation water, or the clean water necessary for oil extraction in a new fracking site or other industrial uses. It can eliminate the practice of reinjecting the wastewater underground, which increases the likelihood of contaminating freshwater resources.


OSU will demonstrate fully treated fracking wastewater at approximately $7 per cubic meter, more than 30% lower than the current partial treatment cost.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Rakesh Radhakrishnan
Project Contact:
Dr. Bahman Abbasi
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:


University of Nevada: Reno
Michigan State University

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