Enzymatic Polymer Degradation for Environmental Remediation

Track Code: 
16KU056L
Summary: 

This invention provides a composition and method for effectively and responsibly degrading polymers using an enzyme. It is most applicable in hydraulic fracturing (fracking) applications in the oil and gas industry. The system has the ability to break down a wide variety of fracking polymers without the use of toxic chemicals, and has the potential to degrade other organic molecules and pollutants associated with remediation processes.

Overview: 

With the increasing use of fracking methods for oil and gas recovery, a need has arisen for a solution to address both the economic and environmental concerns related to the cleanup process. This invention provides an enzyme which fills that need. This invention will provide a more affordable and environmentally conscious alternative to the current remediation methods that utilize toxic chemicals to break the polymers, and is effective on a wider variety of polymers (e.g., both polysaccharide and polyacrylamide (PAM) polymers).

Applications: 

The invention could play an important role in hydraulic fracturing applications for environmental remediation. This invention is more environmentally friendly and more widely applicable than current methods and compounds used in the polymer breaking process. The fracking chemical and fluids market is a worldwide market including a number of large companies. The application for enzymes such as this invention will be growing and widely used, potentially globally, as a means for more environmentally friendly remediation.

How it works: 

This invention overcomes the difficulties posed by polymers in a variety of fields from hydraulic fracturing applications for oil and gas to general environmental remediation. Polymers are recalcitrant to conventional remediation techniques. The system in this invention overcomes this difficulty. This invention uses enzymes and other chemical reagents that are benign, not toxic like other commonly used chemicals in this application, and inexpensive. By providing a cost-efficient, safe alternative for fracking, the process is desirable from a technical and public relations standpoint.

Benefits: 

This invention provides a green solution to fracking fluid cleanup. The large demand in the market and the political environment surrounding fracking seek out the benefits this invention provides. Future regulations may even require such a cleanup technology. It can also provide economic benefits, using low cost source material and potentially simplifying the disposal process - it may even enable the re-use of fracking fluids.

Why it is better: 

Most fracking polymers do not readily decompose and current methods often use toxic chemicals to break down the polymers. This method is environmentally friendly and does not use toxic chemicals. It is also expected that the enzymes used could be obtained from very low cost sources.

Licensing Associate: 
Michael Patterson, JD · m.patterson@ku.edu · 785-864-6397
Subcategory(s): 
Keyword(s): 
Inventor(s): 
Jenn-Tai Liang
Aaron Scurto
William Gilbert
Status: 
Patent-Pending