A new 'smart sponge' may be the key to reducing the pollution caused by runoff water from drilling for oil and gas, according to OilPrice.com.
At the recent World Shale Oil & Gas Summit, Abtech Holdings Glenn Rink was handed the award for the best technology innovator of 2012. Their amazing technology? A sponge.
Fracking is massively water intensive and one of the main problems is cleaning the contaminated water after it has been used. Each well requires millions of gallons of water mixed with chemicals in order to break open the shale and allow the oil and gas to flow. When the water returns to the surface it is highly polluted with chemicals, petroleum liquids, metals, and other debris. (RELATED: How to Benefit from the Offshore Oil Boom)
Current technologies use skimmers, centrifuges, and reverse osmosis to clean the water, yet they are not perfect, and the water still remains too polluted to be used in the fracking process again, or to be released back into the water table.
Abtech’s ‘Smart Sponge’ seems to hold the solution. The sponge is made in a process which makes the plastic structure highly oleophilic yet hydrophobic. This means that the sponge does not soak up any water at all, yet absorbs as much oil as possible. In fact it is so oleophilic that it can soak up three pounds of oil for every pound of sponge, and in such a way that the hydrocarbon molecules chemically bond with the sponge and are not released. (RELATED: An Inside Look at the Energy Markets)
The fact that every pound of Smart Sponge will hold three pounds of oil means that the used sponges become solid sources of fuel. Abtech is now in the process of developing generators which will use these oil saturated sponges as fuel, rather than the traditional diesel.