Mendenhall Research Fellowship Program

18-26. Reuse and treatment of high-salinity waters produced from hydrocarbon wells


Closing Date: January 6, 2020

This Research Opportunity will be filled depending on the availability of funds. All application materials must be submitted through USAJobs by 11:59 pm, US Eastern Standard Time, on the closing date.

How to Apply

Apply Here

The Oil and Gas Waters Project of the USGS Energy Resources Program is seeking a Mendenhall Postdoctoral Scholar to research topics surrounding produced water treatment and reuse. The scholar must have a background in petroleum wastewater treatment, environmental engineering, chemical engineering, petroleum engineering, organic chemistry, petroleum chemistry, hydrology, water resources, or a related field.  The scholar will conduct mostly laboratory research, both at the USGS and with outside partners, with the opportunity to conduct field and/or modeling studies. 

Research Topic: Develop tailored treatment methods for various geological basins or treatment levels

Produced water geochemistry varies across the geologic basins of the United States, and it also varies across the lifetime of a production well. We seek proposals focusing on refining the treatment process for produced waters over the lifetime of a well (considering changes to geochemistry over time) and/or on creating a cost-effective uniform treatment method that can be applied across various basins, based on the variable chemistry of the water. The purpose is to offset the water demands from energy production by increasing the volumes of produced water that can be reused in some way. Identifying an easy-to-modify treatment regime may reduce cost of treatment and streamline treatment operations across the United States. Identifying an easily translatable treatment regime would allow for quick implementation of treatment plans in an area of new drilling operations.

Another way to increase reuse of produced waters is to develop new ways to use these waters at different stages of treatment. This would require research into both new ways to treat produced waters and new ways to reuse these partially-treated or fully-treated waters. The purpose is to validate the ability to use treated produced water for proposed reuse scenarios, such as in agriculture, for heating/cooling (i.e., geothermal activities), and in the energy industry (e.g., water-alternating-gas operations). For example, the candidate may propose to test, refine, or develop desalination and treatment techniques for produced waters specifically for recycling through the hydraulic fracturing process. This research may involve leveraging our sample and site access to focus on testing one or more specific treatment technologies by collaborating with our academic or industry partners. 

Interested applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the Research Advisor(s) early in the application process to discuss project ideas.

Proposed Duty Station: Reston, VA

Areas of PhD: Engineering, chemistry, hydrology, or related fields (candidates holding a Ph.D. in other disciplines, but with extensive knowledge and skills relevant to the Research Opportunity may be considered).

Qualifications: Applicants must meet the qualifications for: Research Hydrologist, Research Engineer, Research Chemist

(This type of research is performed by those who have backgrounds for the occupations stated above.  However, other titles may be applicable depending on the applicant's background, education, and research proposal. The final classification of the position will be made by the Human Resources specialist.)

Human Resources Office Contact: Audrey Tsujita, 916-278-9395,

Apply Here


Jenna L Shelton, Ph.D.

Research Hydrologist
Eastern Energy Resources Science Center
Phone: 703-648-6489

Madalyn S Blondes

Research Geologist
Eastern Energy Resources Science Center
Phone: 703-648-6509

Tanya J Gallegos

Research Engineer
Eastern Energy Resources Science Center
Phone: 703-648-6181