Shale gas drilling is poised to explode outside the U.S. Opportunities abound for geosynthetics.
With hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”—the use of high-pressure water to help extract previously inaccessible shale gas—eager to replicate its success outside the U.S., the market for water treatment will grow nine-fold to $9 billion by 2020. This expansion will spur technology innovation and novel thinking about water disposal and reuse, but the field is rapidly growing overcrowded, creating significant risk for new entrants, Lux Research said in a May 1 press release.
The release noted that fracking requires between 4,000m3 and more than 22,000m3 of water per well, producing toxin-laced brine that can be more than six times as salty as seawater. Its growth has energized the water industry, inspiring a bumper crop of new water-treatment startups vying to treat the highly challenging flowback water.
“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,” said Brent Giles, a Lux research analyst and the lead author of a report titled, “Risk and reward in the frack water market.”
“While the opportunity is large, only a few companies are really positioned to profit. Meanwhile, nearly every start-up we talk to is going after frack water, regardless of their technology, and many of them are going to come to grief,” Giles added.
Robert Koerner, director of the Geosynthetic Institute (GSI), has noted that “Geosynthetic materials are playing key roles for fracking pit containment, underdrain management, soil separation, rainwater harvesting, dewatering,” and other similar applications.
GSI has written a white paper on the subject: “Geosynthetic opportunities with shale gas extraction.”