With hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking" – the use of high pressure water to help extract previously inaccessible shale gas – eager to replicate its success outside the United States, the market for water treatment will grow nine-fold to $9 billion in 2020. This expansion will spur technology innovation and novel thinking about water disposal and reuse, but the field is rapidly growing overcrowded, creating significant risk for new entrants, according to a new report by Lux Research.
Fracking requires between 25,000 bbl to
140,000 bbl of water per well, and produces toxin-laced brine that can be more
than six times as salty as the sea. Its growth has energized the water
industry, inspiring a bumper crop of new water treatment startups vying to
treat the highly challenging flowback water.
"Fracking represents a significant
water treatment challenge -- hydrocarbons, heavy metals, scalants, microbes and
salts in produced and flowback water from shale gas wells represent a water
treatment challenge on par with the most difficult industrial
wastewaters," says Brent Giles, Lux Research analyst and the lead author
of the report titled, "Risk and Reward in the Frack Water Market."
"While the opportunity is large, only a few
companies are really positioned to profit. Meanwhile, nearly every start-up we
talk to is going after frack water, regardless of their technology, and many of
them are going to come to grief," he adds.