Innovative new water treatment technologies have long struggled to gain a toehold in markets where age-old, cheap, commodity solutions remain deeply entrenched. The exception is the oil and gas industry, where drilling companies see value in new technologies that can help eliminate the cost and logistics of transporting wastewater offsite for treatment. Several emerging technologies offer small footprints that allow treatment to occur at the wellhead.
This week’s graphic ranks the strongest contenders on the Lux Innovation Grid according to how they score on technical value, business execution, and maturity. Focusing on the Dominant quadrant, Ecosphere, WaterTectonics, and Aquapure all solve the same problem through different technologies.
WaterTectonics – which has an exclusive arrangement with Halliburton – removes heavy metals from produced water using electrocoagulation. Ecosphere, now expanding its footprint as part of an entity called Hydrozonics, uses a combination of ozone, cavitation, and electrochemistry to prevent heavy metal build up rather than removing it. AquaPure eschews subtlety altogether and simply distills fresh water off.
All three solutions minimize chemical use and disinfect the water. The biggest distinction between them is the amount of energy required. Were all things equal, this might make AquaPure the loser. But water treatment is a service business for oil and gas, and energy costs don’t matter if they aren’t passed on to the gas company. Despite the huge energy differences, Aquapure may charge gas companies $9.40 to $25 per cubic meter, which is competitive with WaterTectonics at around $12.50. Ecosphere undercuts them both at $4.70 to $5.66 per.
Other contenders in the Dominant quadrant produce polymers that absorb oil and remove it from water. Gradek Energy targets high-concentration tar-sand wastewater with a reusable product, while MyCelx uses a disposable product for low-concentration wastewater. GE Water distributes MyCelx products, adding significantly to their clout, but clients should keep in mind that this is a crowded and relatively low-tech space.
Source: Lux Research report “Water Chemicals and Competitors: The Long, Long March of the “Chemical-Free” Revolution.”