To understand the impact of ERI, I spent some time asking HP about the technical details and their business / market trend impact. As we proceed in the interview, I think it is important to point out how HP has made excellent use of timing with ERI. The stars all seem to have aligned finally, for a company like ERI and a technology like the PX to make an enormous difference in the world.
SM: Where are you seeing adoption of desalination technology that uses your specific energy recovery equipment? HP: Well, to understand some of the trends here it is important to look at it historically. You can sort of divide desalination into two camps. One is called thermal which is really an evaporation technology and the other is reverse osmosis. Historically, the Middle East has been all about thermal. Just because they’ve had abundant energy and there really has been no opportunity cost attached to this energy. So you have typically seen large plants built in connection with refineries or other energy intensive plants where they have a lot of excess energy to spend on thermal desalination.
Now what you see as a trend, as a function of isobaric technology that we are part of, is that reverse osmosis is going from a historic share of about one third of the market to 60% and I think we will see it stabilize around 80%. And that is because of the energy efficiency and the simplicity of the PX. Even if I give you the excess energy for free out of a thermal plant, it is still cheaper to desalinate water through reverse osmosis with the PX.
So it is dawning on the whole world that this trend is likely to continue. That is the technical stuff driving the market.
The other thing here is that we have a convergence of forces everywhere. You see a rapid urbanization around the world. You see that global warming is not anything people talk about as a scientific experiment anymore. It’s an accepted fact. The rain patterns around the world changes. Then you have the increased affluence of the Chinese and the Indian markets in addition to the increased urbanization and the depleted ground water wells as well; so, all of these elements, they play into the same trend.
SM: So desalination becomes a lot more critical as a source of clean water. HP: It becomes a bigger source of clean water. Desalination has always been there. Desalination is not new. What’s new in this game is that suddenly desalination has become a reliable and an affordable source of water irregardless of the rain or seasonal patterns you have.