Download now: Cannabis Cash

Water Desalination Technology

Water Desalination Companies Offer Solution to Supply Strain

Written by Brianna Panzica
Posted August 27, 2012 at 6:45PM

Today marks the start of the eleventh annual World Water Week, a convention held in Stockholm by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI).

Scientists and water industry representatives from over 100 nations are meeting to discuss water efficiency and the problem of waste.

A major problem in excess water consumption is actually food waste, the first topic that the summit addressed.

From the Huffington Post:

“More than one-fourth of all the water we use worldwide is taken to grow over one billion tons of food that nobody eats. That sent down the drain,” Torgny Holmgren, Executive Director of the SIWI, explained at the start of the summit.

One third of all food in the world is wasted, according to the summit. And this means that all the water used to grow this food is wasted as well.

This year, the U.S. has started to get an idea for just how limited the resource actually is. Freshwater, of course, is needed to grow crops. But this past summer, over half the nation experienced drought, affecting the output of the corn crop that is used for both food and ethanol and contributing to higher food prices.

Then, on top of that, the water that became even more limited this summer was also demanded by oil and gas companies involved in the U.S. shale boom. Hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), after all, requires millions of gallons of water.

And I still haven't mentioned drinking water. With a world population that just breached 7 billion, large amounts of freshwater are necessary to support the growing numbers, particularly in developing nations.

From Bloomberg:

“Water right now is a strain on this planet more than carbon,” Dow Chemical Co. (DOW) Chief Executive Officer Andrew Liveris said in an interview this month in London. “We mismanage water terribly. It's going to be a big issue.”

But one method is growing as a way to tackle the issue.

According to Global Water Intelligence, desalination is set to become a $17 billion industry by 2016. Just this year, it jumped to $8.9 billion from $5 billion last year. And as even more water is demanded for energy processes like fracking, it will nearly double in four years.

Desalination equipment turns ocean water into fresh water. The process, according to Bloomberg, dates back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, but it was not to become an industry until post-World War II. The first plant in the U.S. was located in Freeport, Texas and built by Dow Chemical Co. (NYSE: DOW) in 1961.

The process of reverse osmosis, using a membrane to remove salt, was used in the 1990s. Though it still costs ten times as much as traditional water sources, the cost was reduced by half since its conception to $1 per cubic meter.

The majority of the world's desalination plants are currently in the Middle East. There are 30 plants in China and eight in India, though both nations have more planned for the near future.

While traditional distillation remains the most common technique, reverse osmosis still has about 45% of the distillation market. But a new process in the works called forward osmosis cuts down on the amount of heat and energy necessary for the process, and it could reduce the cost by 30% according to Modern Water Plc (LON: MWG), a company that uses the process.

Major companies involved in distillation include General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE), Dow Chemical Co., and Acciona SA (MCE: ANA), though smaller companies like Flowserve Corp. (NYSE: FLS) and Energy Recovery Inc. (NASDAQ: ERII) also have an influence on the market. Oasys Water Inc. specifically works with oil and gas companies in the U.S.

The world drinking water demand will continue to rise with the population. But demand will also continue to rise in other areas such as the shale boom. As nations such as Argentina and Russia begin to explore their shale possibilities, this will only grow further.

The desalination process could prove key to the need for more of the resource, particularly as the shale boom continues to expand nationally and globally.

That's all for now,

brianna sig cropped

Brianna Panzica

follow basic@brianna_panzica on Twitter

Energy & Capital's modern energy guru, Brianna digs deep into the industry with accurate and insightful updates into the biggest energy companies and events. She stays up to date with the latest market moves and industry finds, bringing readers a unique view of current energy trends. For more on Brianna, see her editor's page.

Related Articles

Solving Fracking's Water Issue
The EPA has evaluated homeowner water wells near fracking operations and determined that no chemical or pollutant occurred in a quantity worthy of further regulation or action. But if that's not good enough for you, consider this...
Water Storage for Fracking
GreenHunter Water services the Utica and Marcellus shale, and its newly-expanded storage plant will widen its influence.
EPA Finds "Gasland" Town's Water Clean
The EPA has investigated contaminant levels in a Pennsylvania fracking town, and the studies came back clean.


Is it Safe for You to Buy Coal Stocks Yet?
Shedding Light on the Death of the Coal Industry
Investing in the Future of Solar
How to Profit Like an Investment Banker
Without the ITC, is Solar Still a Good Investment?
Will THIS Kill the Solar Industry?
The Secret Behind the Gatwick Gusher
Is the UK Running Out of Options?
Buffett Has a $4.5 Billion Stake in This Refiner
Refiners Are Safe Havens During the Low-Price Period
An OPEC Civil War Erupts
Strange Things Afoot in the House of Saud
Energy Utilities NEED the Internet of Things
Stay connected to stay on target!
The Lithium Revolution Just Got Hotter
Utility-Scale Lithium Batteries Taking Off
Metal Oil Investing 101
Meet the Oil of the 21st Century
Tesla's (NASDAQ: TSLA) Final Deathblow
The Ultimate Tesla Play