But what goes in must come out: Four separation start-ups to watch

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While chemicals can solve or reduce some water problems, they can also create others. Chemicals and compounds injected into oil or gas wells will reappear mixed into the ‘flowback’ water, adding to the already complex challenge of produced water treatment.

“The separation and recovery of viscosified polymer-rich produced waters is a huge challenge for the oil and gas industry,” says Wayne Evans of Veolia Water Technologies. “We are actively trying to source such technologies. I know the same is true of every other serious water technology business that serves the oil and gas industry.”

The separation and recovery of added and naturally-occurring chemicals and other compounds in produced water is driven by two factors; regulation and value. In the majority of jurisdictions where the oil and gas industries operate, regulations on water discharge are tightening. Where oil and gas waste water contains valuable compounds there is a simple commercial incentive to separate and capture them.

Water-tech start-ups that are capitalising on these trends include Therma-Flite, a US separation technology company, and Evodos, a Dutch high efficiency centrifuge company.

Therma-Flite  raised $7.5m in November 2014 from Canadian specialist water investor XPV Capital. Evodos raised an undisclosed sum in 2012 from the German venture capital fund e-capital and SKion, a family office investment vehicle owned by German billionaire industrial Susanne Klatten.  San Severino raised an undisclosed sum from private investors in 2014.

Using a thermal desorption technology, Therma-Flite separates and recovers the water, diesel and oil from oil and gas sludge, which can then be resold or reused.

Initially focused on the algae industry, Evodos was brought into the North American and Middle Eastern oil and gas industry because of its technology’s ability to separate liquids from liquids.

“[Evodos] first commercialized its Spiral Plate Technology in the algae industry where it de-waters algae particularly efficiently,” explains Dr Reinhard Huebner, SKion investment director. “But they have been drawn into the oil and gas industry because their Dynamic Settlers enable energy-efficient liquid-liquid separation and fine particle removal.  There are numerous applications for their product in the oil and gas space.”

Soiltech is a Norwegian start-up with a proprietary cuttings treatment technology that is backed by Statoil Technology Invest. Statoil has invested in the company in order to exceed the offshore water discharge obligations set by the International Maritime Organisation.

MIOX Corporation is a US-based company that generates on-site chemicals for water disinfection. In June 2013, Miox announced a strategic investment from TEL Venture Capital, the corporate venture arm of Japanese semiconductor manufacturer Tokyo Electron Ltd.  The amount invested was not disclosed.  TEL joins DCM, Sierra Ventures, Flywheel Ventures and Schlumberger Limited on the Miox shareholder registry.

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