Brine management a major growth area

There is a great article here on the growth of the Coal Seam Gas industry in Australia. It is anticipated that 300,000 megalitres of highly saline water will be extracted every year from CSG bores in Australia, and the search for ways to manage that water continues.

This is not just about mining though. As fresh water becomes more scarce globally, inland farmers and communities around the world will increasingly turn to desalination to make use of higher and higher salinity water.

Along with inland desalination comes the question of brine management. How do you deal with all that high-salinity water? H2Otalent is already starting to see the growth of the brine management industry reflected in the positions we are recruiting for.

Watch this space.

Water industry opaque to outsiders

I was excited to see a full length article about the water industry in the Financial Times hit my inbox this morning. For a large industry, water gets very little coverage in the world’s premier financial publication. Water stories generally appear under Energy in the iPad version.

I was unsurprised then to find the analysis shallow, and while making a valid point, largely wrong.

The drive of the article is the industry must globalise further to meet the challenges of water shortages. I am inclined to agree, although the inherently local nature of water related challenges limits the traction global firms can get.

The authors claim that ” few water companies operate outside a confined geographical area”. Even by the narrowest definition there are many global water players, and if you broaden the definition to include technology firms there are hundreds.

They also claim that European  firms have not been involved in developing water supplies for India, China etc., which is completely wrong.

Where they are correct is that from a British perspective the general trend seems to be against globalisation. Most of the regulated UK utilities have sold their overseas interests over the past 5-7 years.

However the Middle East remains a playground for major infrastructure providers from all over the world. North Africa, the Philippines and India are all trending towards increased foreign participation in their water markets.

While China has seems to be less excited about foreign participation in their water sector, there has been an interesting increase in globalisation inside the chinese speaking countries, with Singaporean firms significantly increasing their mainland China presence. Also in Asia, the Japanese trading houses are developing their water DBO capability as fast as they can through international acquisitions.

Finally the Spanish water DBO firms are expanding internationally at breakneck speed, achieving significant wins in South America, North Africa and Australia.

I think we can safely say that the trend is towards globalisation, and the pace is just about as fast as is politically possible.

We can also say that the water industry is still an enigma to the broader business world.

Veolia’s opportunity

Veolia’s terrible earnings results, coming on the back on substantial write-downs, have caused their share price to plunge again, and at time of writing their share price is down close to 50% over a year, and 71% over five years.

This is an opportunity for those pushing for a change of approach in the business to assert themselves.

In my previous post on the “power to the edge” organizational structure I suggested that a centralized and hierachical management approach is poorly suited to creating an adaptive business that can change rapidly in response to a rapidly changing external environment.

Veolia has a lot of excellent assets, both tangible and intangible, not least of which is the outstanding quality of their employees.

I believe they could they could create a lot more organizational bandwidth with the decentralization of authority in their business. Sure, manage your risk and protect your intellectual property, but don’t waste your most precious resource; your people.