Oil and agriculture are two of the state’s most water-intensive industries, and also two of the largest industries in CSUB’s service region of Kern County. Agriculture alone accounts for 80 percent of the state’s water usage. Oil production surfaces billions of gallons of wastewater annually. The treatment of produced water is expensive and labor intensive, particularly in a drought. Working in partnership with OriginClear, a Los Angeles water treatment company, senior engineering students in CSUB’s California Energy Research Center are researching efficient and cost-effective ways to treat oil field and dairy wastewater for agricultural and other end uses.

Two teams of students in Physics and Engineering Assistant Professor Luis Cabrales’ course—one treating produced water from oilfields and the other treating wastewater from dairies—use OriginClear’s equipment with different technologies to innovate the company’s water treatment process. The core technology uses various anodes and electrical currents to treat water. Students analyze the wastewater qualities and evaluate possible water treatments, testing and validating the water treatment process for their reuse by local industry. The laboratory studies have the potential for large-scale adoption by oil producers in the region.

“Several of my students previously worked in the oil industry," said Dr. Cabrales. Their research allows them to find new opportunities in water technology to enhance the wastewater reclamation process, provide fresh water to other industries, and address water security."