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World Oil Awards: Honoring groundbreaking strides in the Oil and Gas Industry

Dr. Meenakshi Bhattacharjee, of Rice University with her Award.

Dr. Meenakshi Bhattacharjee, of Rice University with her Award.

 

 

 

An exclusive interview with Dr. Meenakshi Bhattacharjee, Rice University, finalist of this year’s (2017) World Oil Awards.
World renowned Algal Biotechnologist, Dr. Meenakshi Bhattacharjee, of Rice University was honored as finalist in this award under the category “Innovative Thinker” for her brilliant Innovative Technology using the fascinating microbes called Algae to clean up the oil field produced “frac return fluid” which is a huge environmental hazard for humanity when stored or not properly disposed.
Q. What is the World Oil award about?
For 16 years, World Oil has honored the upstream industry’s leading innovators and innovations. Companies working in the upstream industry nominated a wide range of cutting-edge technologies and outstanding industry leaders for the 2017World Oil Award Finalists under various categories. A very rigorous screening process was in place for choosing the finalists for each category and this year nominations were received from more than 22 countries all over the globe were screened in a 3 step independent screening process by top intellectuals and leaders in the Oil and Gas Industry. There were 18 categories under which the finalists were selected.
Q. Under what category were you selected?
I was selected for the Innovative Thinker category that is new inventions and can produce path breaking influence and utility for the Oil and gas industry, reducing cost and environmental safety concerns.
Q. What was the innovative technology that you thought of and developed at Rice Univ.?
I have been engaged in Biotechnological studies of algae for the last 33 years and have obtained fascinating results that form the cutting edge of research internationally. Of recent interest to me are the use algae for the development of ecofriendly, and sustainable bioremediation process wherein wastewaters from municipalities are rendered clean and reusable. I developed a similar innovative bioremediation technology for “frac return fluid” that is produced in great amounts by oil industries developing shale plays while using “fracing” of reservoir rocks for enhanced production. This also involves the use of microscopic algae.
Q. What are the environmental hazards of the frac return fluid?
Hydraulic fracturing fluids contain numerous chemicals that are potentially harmful for human health and the environment, especially if they enter drinking water supplies. Concerns also have been raised about the ultimate outcome of chemicals & heavy metals from Frac return fluids that are recovered and disposed of as wastewater.
Q. How is your technology better than the existing ones?
Algae have versatile growth potentials and cleans up frac water and produce biomass as end product that can be harvested for energy and other useful products. This algae based frac wastewater cleanup is a promising environmentally safe technology with no side effects, sustainable, and potentially very easy to implement. This technology is going to be the most economic process for oil industries as billions of dollars are spent on purchase of fresh water and transportation to wells sites each year. The industry is at a cross road where continuing success depends on companies’ ability in securing fresh water-sources along with new disposal and water treatment strategies with reduced serious environmental footprint.
Q. How was your selection as Finalist Unique?
The world Oil awards are meant for innovators/innovations in the Oil and Gas industry exclusively. I am happy to say that I am only one who has been made a finalist who is not at all linked to the Oil and Gas industry but from a University and with biotechnology background.


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