WATERWORLD: Dow Water and Process Solutions is well known as a leader in the water sector. What are your thoughts on the "next big thing" in our industry?
SNEHAL DESAI: Well, you know, everybody talks about big things in a lot of areas, and I think in water tech it's not so much around the big thing as much as what we see as the acceleration of adoption of existing technologies because it takes a while for technology to make its way into the water sector. And so what I would say is "the big thing" is something that we had started doing a while back and that is around water reuse. There is a much more aggressive program in many different sectors on the idea of how we can reuse the water that we have in all of our processes, whether it's in the industrial sector, the municipal sector, the agricultural sector. And so that's really what I would consider to be one of the big things that's going on right now as we change policies and technology to help us really aggressively get after that particular opportunity.
WW: What about reverse osmosis and its role in the water reuse scenario?
SD: As the world's largest manufacturer of reverse osmosis technology, we actually have a lot of insight into where the market is going and so while it has historically been used for desalination -- whether it's for seawater or for brackish water -- reverse osmosis is also finding a very, very strong role in the reuse opportunity sector. So we have ultrafiltration technology and other types of processes that can help you take impaired waters through a series of steps. But ultimately, if you want to use that water for an industrial process, for drinking, for agriculture, you will want to get it down to the cleanest standard. That's where reverse osmosis can play a role and what that's done to our innovation program is it's really had us focus not so much on only salt rejection or pressure, which is still a very key part of RO technology improvement, but also fouling. Fouling resistance is actually now becoming more of a critical factor when you think about reuse. So it's shifting our innovation strategy, but RO has a very strong role to play across the board on both freshwater treatment as well as reuse.
WW: Let's drill down a little bit and talk about oil and gas. What are your thoughts there as far as reuse and its role?
SD: Well, actually it's a very great opportunity for advanced technologies around separation and purification, which is really the portfolio we have within our business. Where we see opportunities are, for example, in the water that we're using for down-well injection. If you want to be able to use the water that's coming up from the creation of that well, you have to treat it and traditional settling methods, settling tanks, etcetera, are okay but they're not handling the flows. And they're not necessarily getting into a quality that would allow you to then be most effective when you're down there trying to retrieve that oil or gas. So macrofiltration or fine particle filtration, which is our TEQUATIC PLUS, really plays a role and is actively being used in the North America market for shale gas to take out the large particles. And then we have a couple of applications where people are looking to take it all the way to the point of not just reuse but discharge to environment. There, we have our absorbent technologies, like OPTIPORE. We have an application in Wyoming where we partnered with GE and Encana to be able to take the water that was coming up from the wells, treat it through a series of steps, and then for the final polish, use some absorbent technology that really gets it to the state where they can discharge to environment and, in effect, create a new water stream. In these very arid regions, there is no water on top, but there is water that sits with the natural reserves. The challenge we all have is that it's a pretty nasty environment down there -- and this is before you do anything from a fracturing standpoint -- and you have to deal with that. The advanced separation portfolio we have really helps to address that, so it's a great opportunity. North America is a start. We see opportunities arising in Argentina, in China, and soon in the U.K. So there are things coming but we have to deal with this issue. We talk about it as sustainable water management in the oil and gas sector because it can be done, and it can be done well, but it does take technology to make that happen.
Editor's Note: The full video interview with Snehal Desai is available on WaterWorld's website in the Video Interviews section of WaterWorldTV.