Q&A: Exploring Latin America — water trends, priorities and opportunities

Dec. 2, 2023
We caught up with Mauro Cruz, Senior Vice President of Latin America at Veolia Water Technologies & Solutions, for a primer on the trends, priorities and opportunities specific to Latin America.

Water Technology recently caught up with Mauro Cruz, senior vice president of Latin America at Veolia Water Technologies & Solutions, for a primer on the trends, priorities and opportunities specific to Latin America.

Q: What are the major industry trends unique to Latin America?

We’re seeing social responsibility play a big role with more and more companies investing in solutions that are better for the environment. Companies are starting to set standards that are even higher than those set by the government, for both environmental impacts as well as safety and security for employees in the work environment. In some cases, we’re even seeing companies set their own company policies or standards without the existence of requirements from the government. For example, companies are investing in advanced technologies to reuse water and discharge a better effluent to the environment without a specific discharge limit imposition in place. 

Electrification is by far the biggest growth trend in Latin America. Lithium mining is especially big in Chile and Argentina. Chile is currently the second largest producer of lithium in the world, but Argentina is becoming a booming market and playing a leading role. There’s a big opportunity for companies to invest in the commodity now and we’re expecting to see strong growth in the coming years. 

Q: What are your team’s top priorities in the region?

In our industry and business, we have long-term projects and trends that go out 10-15 years. What we’ve seen in Latin America in the last 10-15 years is most of the countries in the region now becoming producers and exporters of natural resources products. We have a number of areas related to the energy transition, and our main priority is to serve those customers and meet their water circularity, decarbonization and yield unique needs. 

We have a very strong and mature oil and gas business — everything from exploration and production to downstream refining and petrochemicals. Right now, society still requires oil and gas to help in the transition to green energy, so we view this area as not being in conflict with those goals, but rather as a champion for ecological transformation.

Our region is very commodity based in terms of growth, so copper and lithium are becoming big pieces of our business. Latin America is also a strong global player in the pulp and paper as well as the food and beverage industries, key sectors to ensure hygiene, sanitary paper and food stock among other daily needs worldwide. 

We have a strong and multi-decade supporting relationship to Brazilian ethanol production that goes back to late 1970's Proálcool Program, responsible for important policy implementation to foster the production of ethanol and its use as transportation fuel, contributing with Brazil’s biofuels industry worldwide recognition as a benchmark sector nowadays. We help sugarcane ethanol and biodiesel industries to increase yield, obtain high quality products and achieve ecological footprint reduction goals. Biofuels are a very important bridge from fossil fuels and full electrification and we see the thriving corn ethanol sector as another brick to continue supporting the value generation for the business, the society and the planet, so our business touches a lot of areas in the energy transition.

Our technology is obviously a core piece of our business, but our team’s knowledge of the region coupled with the ability to serve and be with our customers to create customized solutions are what really set us apart.

Q: What initiatives or investments are driving success for customers in the region?

Industrial customers are always looking for enhanced productivity and ways to modernize their plants. They’re investing in technologies that increase productivity while decreasing costs and energy consumption, so sustainability is a big aspect. 

Initiatives related to water reuse, environmental protection and reduction of energy consumption are all priorities in our region, especially in places like Mexico where water is very scarce. Investing in these types of protections and using alternative sources of water are critical components to continue operations. In recent years, we’ve seen a strong demand for our technologies and solutions, and we see this positive momentum continuing into the future.

Q: What unique solutions do customers in the LATAM require?

A prime example is in the oil and gas industry. Because oil and gas will still be present for a while as we transition to green energy, we help customers increase their productivity and decrease environmental impact by working with them to find the best solutions.

Lithium is also bringing innovation to our region and we’re seeing huge investments in that. Different technologies are being tested and evaluated in the region as lithium is being extracted from the brine. This is unique to the region because they’re not the same approaches being implemented in Australia and China, for example. 

We’ve built a reputation in the area as reliable partners for our customers for major projects by combining our expertise in the field with our technologies, capabilities and presence in the region.

Q: What are some of the biggest opportunities for customers in the coming years?

In our region, being a producer of commodities is very important and those opportunities will be there for a while. The geographical aspect also plays a role as we’re seeing governments create different initiatives to help in the green energy transition, so more companies are investing in solutions to meet these goals. 

There are a lot of initiatives and projects already in place where there is the opportunity to make better use of resources, such as biogas production and green hydrogen, for example. These are going to be important growth avenues in terms of alternative energies. 

At Veolia, we believe there is a lot of opportunity to be a champion in the ecological transformation and each day, we strive to implement our technologies and solutions to help our customers across various industries produce more of what they need with less environmental impact.  

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