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Texas Tech Professor Receives $2 Million Grant for Produced Water Research

May 1, 2024

Texas Tech Professor Receives $2 Million Grant for Produced Water Research

The project will develop ways to recover minerals from produced water in oil and gas operations.

Texas Tech University's Mahdi Malmali has received a $2 million grant as part of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) investment into increasing the domestic supplies of water and critical minerals. 

The funding comes through the DOE's Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management as part of $8 million in funding to exploratory projects across the country that has been added to $10 million invested in similar projects in 2023. 

“We are excited to announce additional project selections under this important initiative to recover and reuse energy industry wastewater for non-potable uses, which in turn helps to increase the availability of fresh-water resources in regions of the country experiencing drought conditions made worse by a warming climate,” said Assistant Secretary of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management Brad Crabtree. “At the same time, these projects are helping to develop a domestic source of critical minerals and materials key to achieving our clean energy manufacturing, climate and national security goals.”

Malmali, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, is leading the project titled “Strategic Management and Resource Recovery Transformation (SMAR2T): Recovery of Water and Elements of Interest from Produced Water Using Intensified Membrane Distillation and Metal Extraction.”

Mahdi Malmali
Mahdi Malmali

Along with the team members, Chau-Chyun Chen, a Horn Distinguished Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, and Amrika Deonarine, Hadis Matinpour and Yuexiao Shen from the Department of Civil, Environmental, & Construction Engineering, they intend to develop a system engineering approach to recover valuable resources from oilfield produced waters from unconventional oil and gas wells.

“Texas Tech is extremely proud of Dr. Malmali and his water research team,” said Vice President for Research & Innovation Joseph Heppert. “Dr. Malmali's research is incredibly important, especially in semi-arid regions like ours where water availability is a critical priority. Developing technologies that can utilize produced water is beneficial to our environment and economy, and I'm excited to see Texas Tech researchers committed to solving problems that will benefit our community and region.”

The Texas Tech team will study a cascade treatment approach involving an intensified membrane-based desalination to recover water from produced water. The project is designed to allow the selective recovery of metals and elements of interest through staged precipitation, develop a framework for managing produced water and promote workforce development and community involvement. 

“This project shows how our excellent students and faculty are at the forefront of helping society's most pressing problems,” said Roland Faller, dean of the Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering

The team will also leverage the partial support provided by the Texas Tech Graduate School, through recruiting high-quality graduate students supported by the Distinguished Graduate Student Assistantships program.

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