From The Editor | April 5, 2016

Empowering Water Entrepreneurship: Nano Bubbles Make A Big Difference In Produced Water

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga

“Pow! emPowering Opportunities in Water” was a national search for burgeoning, sustainable water technologies that could benefit from a boost of entrepreneurial stimuli including $40,000 in cash, $10,000 worth of access to a high-level business accelerator, a year’s worth of free office space in downtown Milwaukee, and collaboration with top-tier universities and business mentors.

That search concluded with the selection of three winners: Nano Gas Technologies, Inc., Nutrient Recovery and Upcycling LLC (NRU), and WAVVE Stream Inc. You can read more about what went into the competition and NRU here. In part two of this three-part series, we get to know Nano Gas Technologies, Inc.

At Wayne State University, researchers hoped to make a breakthrough for heart attack victims. By finding a way to deliver oxygen directly to the heart through the bloodstream, they believed they could minimize the amount of permanent heart damage a patient might incur. But an environmentally-minded researcher saw an opportunity to expand the technology. He spent 15 years refining it and eventually discovered a breakthrough for wastewater treatment. He developed the nano gas process.

His mechanism joined with Concept Equity Group to create Nano Gas Technologies, Inc., a solution to the fundamental issue in the world of hydraulic fracturing.

The vast majority of oil companies have been injecting wastewater directly into the ground, through the soil, deep below water resources, and into porous underground rock formations. This practice is coming under heightened environmental scrutiny and some operations have begun recycling the water using dissolved gas flotation, an expensive, high maintenance, and chemical-intensive practice that fixes gas bubbles onto oil droplets, raising them to the surface and making them easy to remove.

The nano gas process retains virtually all of the gas in the liquid and eliminates the wasted energy that comes with most aeration methods. These microscopic suds, so small that they cannot be detected by the human eye, can supersaturate gases and convert them into liquids. An industrial-scale test showed the bubbles can create 57 ppm of oxygen in well water where a normal maximum is 8 to 12 ppm. Minimizing escaped oxygen means minimizing energy use and therefore, cost.

It may seem like a strange time to break into the oil and gas industry. Oversaturation of product has stymied the market and strict environmental regulations may be on the horizon. For Nano Gas, it’s this controversy that makes this the perfect time to approach the produced water game with a cost-saving innovation.

“Low oil prices have the attention of oil and gas producers for whom water is their biggest cost,” Len Bland, the CEO of Nano Gas Technologies, said. “New technologies are creating unprecedented levels of oil and gas generation in the U.S. However, the potential environmental impact is not fully understood. Regulation to solve real and potential problems is becoming more relevant. Nano Gas water recycling provides a cost-effective mechanism to solve these problems.”

Veolia saw the same potential when it selected Nano Gas as a winner.

“For every barrel of oil produced in the U.S., seven barrels of oily wastewater surfaces,” Bland said. “That ‘waste’ contains lots of oil but it is often viewed as too expensive to separate, especially with low oil prices… Nano Gas provides a technology to recover oil and create reusable water by treating oily industry wastewater.”

With its Pow! winnings, Nano Gas Technologies will finish its demonstration project in Seminole, TX. It hopes the demonstration will prove the mechanism’s potential to recycle oil wastewater at the industrial scale. The company believes it can land its first contract in a few months.