The growth in hydraulic fracturing has energized the water industry, inspiring a bumper crop of new water treatment startups aiming to treat the challenging flowback water, according to the report, Risk and Reward in the Frack Water Market. Despite the opportunities in this growing market, only a few companies are positioned to profit, Lux said.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a technique used to release gas trapped in shale formations. The method requires between 25,000 barrels to 140,000 barrels of water per well and produces toxin-laced brine that can be more than six times as salty as the sea, the report said.
Drillers pump million of gallons of water mixed with sand and chemicals under high pressure into wells. The pressure cracks shale deposits and releases the gas. The wastewater mix is removed, often put into open pits for evaporation and eventually trucked to a disposal site.
The fracking mix, containing hydrocarbons, heavy metals, scalants, microbes and salts, represents a significant water treatment challenge on par with the most difficult industrial wastewaters, said Brent Giles, a Lux Research analyst and lead author of the report.
Lux Research assessed the technical value and business execution of key companies and determined if they were poised to dominate the industry, had high potential or fell into a weaker category. It awarded “dominant” status to EcoSphere; WaterTectonics, which has a long-term alliance with Halliburton; and GasFrac, which uses technology licensed from Chevron and, with revenues of $300 million, outstrips every other startup in the report. AquaMost ranks as “high potential.”
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