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Indian-origin scientist develops new method to purify water in oil refineries

Scientists, including one of Indian origin, have developed a process to remove nearly all traces of oil in produced water — a by-product from the oil refinery and extraction process. About 2.5 billion gallons of produced water is generated each day in the US. Handling that water is a major challenge in the oil refinery industry, particularly because it is deemed unusable for household and commercial use because of remaining contaminants.

Several commercial treatments are available, but they are expensive, do not remove all traces of contaminants from water and can be energy-intensive. Researchers at Purdue University in the US have developed a process to remove nearly all traces of oil in produced water. The process uses activated charcoal foam and subjects it to solar light to produce heat and purify the water.

The foam absorbs the oil contaminants from the water. “This is a simple, clean and inexpensive treatment process,” said Ashreet Mishra, a graduate research assistant at the Purdue University. “I have seen in my home country of India how people suffer for the want of pure water, and we as researchers need to do as much as we can to help,” said Mishra.

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