Despite a precipitous decline in unconventional oil technology and frac activity following the dramatic decline in global oil prices, the market for frac water management is still estimated to be worth $1.9 billion, not including water transportation and disposal, according to Lux Research.
While fracs have fallen from about 2,300 in October 2014 to 1,350 in February 2015, the water treatment market remains strong for companies that know how to play the opportunity. As oil and gas companies cut spending, operators are tapping new technologies to tighten up water management strategies and to lower costs. In addition, new regulatory momentum in the United States could usher in stricter oversight of water transportation and disposal and facilitate more extensive water recycling.
“No single technology or water management approach will win in the frac water treatment space. Rather, companies will employ a mixture of water disposal, centralized treatment and onsite treatment using physical, thermal and electrochemical methods,” said Brent Giles, Lux Research Director and one of the authors of the report titled, “Surviving the Shakeout in Frac Water Treatment Technologies.”
“Companies like Saltworks Technologies have found ways to incrementally improve established technologies to address pain points in a given geography, while new players like BitPetroClean see an opportunity in niche markets,” he added.
Lux Research analysts evaluated water management opportunities in the changed landscape for fraccing, and rated 19 water treatment companies on the Lux Innovation Grid. Among their findings:
- Saltworks, Memsys lead in thermal treatment. Saltworks and Memsys placed in the “Dominant” quadrant on the Lux Innovation Grid. Both are exploring combined thermal and membrane systems to alleviate corrosion issues caused by high temperatures and treat wastewater.
- WaterTectonics branches out from Halliburton deal. WaterTectonics, which gained notoriety through an exclusive partnership with Halliburton, is the sole “Dominant” company among electrocoagulation providers. The company is actively exploring related markets such as offshore water treatment.
- BioPetroClean tops in oil recovery. In the absence of a “Dominant” player, BioPetroClean is the highest-rated company among oil recovery and removal companies. Rated “High potential,” BioPetroClean focuses on degrading the last traces of oil that are not currently economical to recover.