Texas Tech University

Texas Tech Team Finishes Second at Energy Innovation Challenge

George Watson

May 8, 2015

The interdisciplinary team of students competed to develop and present solutions to water use from hydraulic fracturing.

Texas Tech Team

A team of Texas Tech University students finished runner-up in the 2015 Texas Energy Innovation Challenge sponsored by Power Across Texas.

The Texas Tech team finished behind Houston in the competition held Friday (May 1) at the state Capitol building in Austin, but finished ahead of the University of Texas, Texas A&M University and the University of Texas-El Paso. Their challenge was to present to a panel of judges solutions for the 2015 Texas Energy Innovation Challenge (TEIC), to research, evaluate and develop the most creative and economic use for water resulting from hydraulic fracturing of wells, whether that solution includes recycling, disposal or discharge.

Sponsored by faculty representative Danny Reible, the Donovan Maddox Distinguished Engineering Chair and professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Construction Engineering, the Texas Tech team consists of Ebru Unal, a doctoral student in the Department of Petroleum Engineering; James Urban, a master's student in the Rawls College of Business; Ritesh Sevanthi, an doctoral student at Texas Tech; and Soraya Honarparvar, a doctoral student in the Department of Chemical Engineering.

Danny Reible

“The students presented a comprehensive solution for management of water produced from oil and gas activities, recognizing there is no single solution for such a complex problem,” Reible said. “They developed plans for reusing as much of the produced water as possible for other oil and gas activities, including hydraulic fracturing, but also showed how some of the water could receive low-cost treatment and be used to supply power plant cooling waters, create energy-producing solar ponds and as a deicing fluid for roads during winter. The combined solutions could effectively utilize much of the water that now goes to disposal facilities.”

Also included on the team were Mrunali Patil, a master's student in the Department of Petroleum Engineering, Matthew VanDyke, a doctoral candidate in the College of Media & Communication, and James West, a student in the School of Law.

By finishing second, the Texas Tech team earned a $7,500 scholarship.

Texas Railroad Commission chairwoman Christi Craddick and commissioners David Porter and Ryan Sitton attended the event, as did state Sen. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock). Perry is the chairman of the Senate Agricultural, Water and Rural Affairs Committee.

“Oil and gas is the backbone of the Texas economy, and I'm pleased to see young Texans are working to find innovative, practical real-world solutions to pressing energy issues, like water,” said Porter, who delivered the opening remarks for the event. “The future of Texas looks even brighter thanks to these young adults.”

The TEIC was created to challenge graduate students from interdisciplinary programs to develop research and imagination to solve existing energy problems in Texas. Participants create both written and oral presentations with their research solutions.

Judges for the competition represent an array of businesses related to the subject, from recycling and water resource businesses to shale and oil gas exploration companies.

The competition is sponsored by Power Across Texas, a statewide nonprofit organization based in Austin that uses academic, political and private resources to host initiatives hoping to advance solutions to energy issues across the state.