Report: Fracking to Grow U.S. Frack Water-Treatment Market Nine-Fold by 2020

The race to treat water used in shale-gas drilling could create a $9 billion industry.

The need to treat wastewater from the hydraulic-fracturing process used in shale-gas drilling will contribute to nine-fold growth for the U.S. frack water-treatment industry by 2020, Lux Research said in a report Tuesday.

The U.S. frack water-treatment industry will grow 28% annually to $9 billion over the next eight years as the field develops new technologies to treat fracking wastewater, the technology research and advisory firm reported.

Despite the growth opportunities, only a few companies that demonstrate strong technical value and business execution are poised to profit from fracking water technologies, said Brent Giles, Lux Research Analyst and the lead author of the report, "Risk and Reward in the Frack Water Market."

A few companies that show the most promise in developing fracking wastewater technologies include Everett, Wash.-based WaterTectonics and GasFrac Energy Services Inc. based in Calgary, Alberta.

Both firms have partnered with major oil and gas companies to bring their technologies to market.

GasFrac is "poised to disrupt the industry" with a technology licensed from Chevron Corp. (IW 500/2), Lux Research said.

The company's technology removes water entirely from the process, utilizing high-pressure propane instead of water to fracture gas wells.

Royal Dutch Shell Plc (IW 1000/2), Chevron and Husky Energy Inc. are among a few companies testing the technology.

WaterTectonics has developed a technology that addresses heavy metals, biological matter and hydrocarbons in fracking wastewater. The technology does not remove salt from the water, restricting it to areas where salt levels are moderate.

But the company's alliance with oilfield services giant Halliburton Co. makes its technology more viable than other technology providers entering the field, Lux Research reported.

Concerns over the disposal of fracking water intensified after a series of earthquakes in Youngstown, Ohio, were attributed to a wastewater injection well in area.

Fracking requires between 4,000 cubic meters and 22,000 cubic meters of water per well. The wastewater brine can be more than six times as salty as the sea, according to Lux Research

"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," Giles said.

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