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Natural Gas Harnessing Could Help Harvest Clean Atmospheric Water


Scientists from the University of Texas, Austin, may have figured out a way to kill two environmental birds with one stone. Using waste products in the form natural gas from fracking to collect water stored in the atmosphere could help to reduce environmental pollution and provide clean water as sources become scarcer.

So, where can we find this water?

For every square mile of land, there is a reservoir of 6 to 18 million gallons of freshwater sitting right above us in the atmosphere, not including the water stored in clouds. This has been common knowledge amongst scientists for a significant amount of time now, but all ideas and efforts to harvest this has proven to be uneconomical due to the large amount of energy that would be required.

How will it work?

The idea that scientists have recently come up with would involve an industrial-scale air conditioner that would cool air from the atmosphere, collecting the condensation that results from the cooling of water in the air. This would require a large amount of energy, but it has been suggested that using waste natural gas from fracking operations could be used to power the system.

Around 4% of natural gas extracted worldwide is flared, polluting the atmosphere and reducing operation efficiency. The burning of this waste gas could provide the energy to power the refrigeration system. The scientists behind the idea believe that for every cubic metre of gas used, around 2.3 gallons of water can be collected.

How will the water be used?

The water collected would be fit for human consumption and other processes, but would be most effectively used at fracking sites where enormous amounts of water are required. In arid regions, like Texas, this large amount of water needs to be transported, adding to the environmental impacts.

How viable is this?

The solution that has been proposed would not only contribute to alleviating water scarcity, it would help to reduce environmental pollution by utilising waste natural gas and reducing the carbon footprint of transporting water to fracking sites.

However, this system will only work in areas of high humidity, limiting its global implementation. Coincidentally, regions with large gas reserves tend to be hot, humid and suffer from water scarcity, highlighting the potential for this process.

[via phys.org]

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