Wellspring Hydro project aims to turn produced water into profit

Published: Feb. 10, 2022 at 7:57 PM CST
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WILLISTON, N.D. - Many new projects have been announced near Trenton that will diversify North Dakota’s economy while reducing the state’s carbon footprint. One of them aims to turn a common oilfield waste product into valuable materials.

Looking to turn the Bakken’s largest waste product into profit, Wellspring Hydro plans of building a facility that can process produced water into materials such as Hydrochloric Acid, Caustic Soda, and even Lithium.

More than 63 million gallons of produced water are disposed every day in North Dakota. Wellspring Hydro founder Steve Kemp said his project will be able to extract lithium from that waste, which is extremely valuable.

“The price was going to the moon, as they say,” said Kemp.

At first, a study from the University of North Dakota showed that this project was feasible, but not economical. He then worked to expand his process from not just mining lithium, but also using salt through a chloralkali plant.

“You split the sodium off and the chlorine off. The sodium becomes caustic soda, and the chlorine comes off as gas, which we react in a burner with hydrogen and we create hydrochloric acid,” said Kemp.

The project was recently rewarded a one-million-dollar grant through the Clean Sustainable Energy Authority.

“I just think that the merits of this go to the heart of what we are trying to do with this Clean Sustainable Energy [Authority],” said Kathy Neset, a member of the authority.

Kemp said the project will be located by Trenton with other planned industrial facilities such as the Cerilon Gas-to-Liquids Plant and the Atlas Power Data Center. Kemp added those projects will have a high need for those materials.

“Typically, those products are being shipped in from a thousand to 1,500 miles away. We will be right next door, just piping over what they need on a daily basis,” said Kemp.

Kemp said the facility will bring in 60 full-time jobs and bring in $60 million in annual revenue. It’s also another project that will help stabilize northwest North Dakota’s economy.

Construction for Wellspring Hydro is expected to start sometime later this year.

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