Innovative Cleantech Companies in Water Treatment Could Get a Lift

It’s nearly impossible for innovative technologies to break into a market dominated by age-old, cheap, commodity solutions, and so it goes for the water treatment industry.

Yet, emerging market drivers – from tighter water quality regulations to corporate emphasis on water conservation to water-intensive applications in oil and gas exploration – have all opened the door to new chemical treatments and non-chemical alternatives.

In its latest report, Lux Research ranks up-and-coming chemical and chemical-alternative companies.

The report, "Water Chemicals and Competitors: The Long, Long March of the ‘Chemical-Free’ Revolution," identifies the emerging companies and technologies most likely to survive and thrive in key treatment markets, including drinking water, wastewater, cooler and boiler water, desalination, mining, industrial, and oil & gas.

"Opportunities await the new wave of reduced- and non-chemical water treatments, but those opportunities are distributed unevenly across application markets," says Brent Giles, a Lux Research Senior Analyst and the report’s lead author. "New approaches for treating municipal water, for example, won’t budge conventional chemical-based methods. But in the oil and gas industry, non-chemical treatments could move very fast because their relatively small footprint enables produced water to be treated at the drill site and reused."

To distinguish winners from losers, Lux conducted more than 60 interviews with companies competing in the space, and assigned them scores for technical value, business execution, and maturity.

Halosource stands out in the crowded drinking water market. The company enjoyed 20% revenue growth to $14.1 million in 2010, and is poised for faster growth with a partnership formed in February 2011 with Fairy Industrial Ceramics, a filter manufacturer.

Halosource’s technology combines a slow-release bromine disinfectant with a filter to create a complete water treatment system.

DXV Water Technologies is another company with high potential. It has a passive flow technology that could significantly reduce surface footprint and chemical use.

SCFI seeks to eliminate additives and traditional treatment altogether for wastewater. The company is fielding a self-perpetuating wastewater treatment that eliminates complex organics through complete oxidation while allowing for retrieval of metals and phosphates.

The company has partnered with Parsons Corporation and Rockwell for engineering support and better market penetration.

Sensor-maker Neosens also is recognized for its high potential. Water testing is a complicated affair involving archaic methods and often toxic reagents. Neosens is changing that with a unique application of a flexible micro-electro-mechanical (MEMS) platform that senses early signs of fouling – a critical parameter in cooling and boiler water systems.

Neosens business execution lags, but expect that to change once Neosens is snapped up by a larger competitor like Danaher or GE, Lux writes.

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