Home\Educate\Water Reuse 101\Research Projects\Year\2013\Requirements and Opportunities for Water Reuse in Energy and Biofuels

Requirements and Opportunities for Water Reuse in Energy and Biofuels

Project: 08-12
Year Released: 2013
Type: Decision Making Tool

Program: Principal
Funding Partners: Bureau of Reclamation, California State Water Resources Control Board
Total Investment: $431,284.29 (Cash: $ 298,754.29, In-Kind: $132,530)

Principal Investigator: Dave Richardson, RMC Water and Environment


The inter-relationship of water and energy, known as the Water-Energy Nexus, as received increasing attention in recent years. Current energy production methods require large amounts of water, and meanwhile, the portfolio of energy and fuels is expected to broaden as new and emerging technologies become established. This project identifies how recycled water can play a role in new, emerging energy industries, as well as existing and growing industries.

Goals and Objectives

The project:

  • Identifies and quantifies potential recycled water markets and demands in each of the four energy sectors.
  • Characterizes the water quality requirements for these water demands.
  • Compiles issues and barriers that may hinder the use of recycled water.
  • Develops strategies to enhance the use of recycled water in the four energy sectors.
  • Creates a decision support tool to guide recycled water users and suppliers to utilize recycled water.

Research Approach

Task 1: Literature review and interviews with industry contacts.

Task 2: Compilation of available industry data on water use in the energy sectors covered by the study

Task 3: Develop requirements for potential projects, including water quantity, quality, and factors such as cost and reliability that determine suitability of recycled water.

Task 4: Analysis of industry-wide potential water demands that could be met with recycled water.

Task 5: Develop an internet-based tool to help bring together the recycled water and the energy sectors covered by the project.

Findings and Conclusions

The power and heat production (PHP) sector, particularly thermoelectric power generation, has the greatest potential water demand that could be served by recycled water. Growth in thermoelectric power generation through 2020 has a theoretical water demand of 450 billion gallons per year.

Corn ethanol production has the greatest theoretical potential, as production is well established and currently projected to grow, with a theoretical water demand of 23 billion gallons per year by 2020. Traditional biodiesel production is estimated to require 3.5 billion gallons per year by 2020. Advanced biofuels, including cellulosic-based and others, have not yet been fully commercialized. However, ethanol production could nearly match those for corn ethanol at 20 billion gallons per year by 2020.

Irrigation of biomass feedstock crops (crops used for biofuels production), specifically corn and soybeans, also represents a high theoretical water demand, but for widespread implementation, would have to be paired with an incentive structure, include lack of other irrigation supplies and low rates, for wide implementation.

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