Published: Jan. 15, 2019 By

James Rosenblum standing outside next to a truck and co-worker.

Kurban Sitterley (left) and James Rosenblum (right) on a sampling trip in Oklahoma. Sitterley is a graduating PhD from CU Boulder and will be joining Rosenblum at the Water Technology Hub as a postdoctoral researcher.

A former CU Boulder postdoctoral researcher has been hired to run the new Colorado Center for a Sustainable Water-Energy Education, Science and Technology (WE2ST) - Water Technology Hub at the Colorado School of Mines.

James Rosenblum took the position in October, managing the new facility that is geared towards connecting academia to industry, municipalities and startups working towards sustainable water solutions. Located in northeast Denver, the hub has all of the equipment and initial funding needed to test treatment methods for water used in industry and municipalities.  This includes around 30,000 gallons of water capacity, rail lines for importing water from across the U.S., fabrication facility for cross-scale research, and both a wet and analytical laboratory for water analysis.

He will be running the facility with Colorado School of Mines Professor Tzahi Cath.   

Rosenblum said all of this, especially the ability to work across scales, is a growing need in the field to test new technologies and apply traditional technologies to complex industrial wastewaters like oil and gas wastewater.

“Oil and gas waters, for example, are one of the most complex wastewaters in the world and it is a big task to understand both what is in these waters as well as how to treat them,” Rosenblum said. “There is not a more complex and fun water challenge for an engineer or scientist to try and solve.”

Prior to taking this position, Rosenblum worked under Professor Karl Linden at CU Boulder for four years as a postdoctoral researcher, developing treatment technologies for hydraulic fracturing wastewaters under the CU-led National Science Foundation grant known as AirWaterGas, as well as treating a variety of chemical and microbial contaminants with ultraviolet light and advanced oxidation processes for municipal and impacted ground waters. His experiences at CU led him to CH2M (now Jacobs) as a scientist in the Drinking Water and Reuse group, prior to taking the research assistant professor position at Mines to help lead the hub.

The building housing the hub originally served as a testbed for wastewater treatment technology for the midstream oil and gas company NGL-Energy Partners. NGL donated everything within the facility, while the ZOMA Foundation provided a substantial gift of $1.5 million to establish the new research center. That donation will go towards starting-up the facility, fellowships and for research at the facility. The Colorado School of Mines Foundation and Office of the Vice President for Research and Technology Transfer also provided a total of $200,000 to establish a new water analysis laboratory there. 

As of right now, Rosenblum is overseeing two projects that start at the center soon: a Department of Energy grant in collaboration with University of California Los Angeles on solar desalination and a small project in collaboration with NREL on hydrokinetic energy desalination.

Rosenblum said he was looking into ways to get complementary expertise at CU and Colorado State University involved in the hub as well as other industry and municipal partners. WE2ST is already collaborating with Linden’s group at CU on innovative advanced oxidation applications for an oil and gas company.  

“This space is primed to serve as a center and partnership space for both municipal and industrial entities, that are facing significant water challenges in Colorado and the West. In the future we aim to bring startup companies that want to test their technology, as well as universities aiming to scale-up their research” he said. “We believe this fills a gap in the existing water treatment space, especially for the growing municipal and industrial reuse space that is vital for Colorado and the West as whole, since we are likely to face major water challenges in the not-so-distant future.”