Washington Observer Reporter, PA – Feb 16, 2008
By Michael Bradwell, Business editor
MEADOW LANDS – Robert Pietrala joined Aquatech International as its first general counsel in July, but he’s already seen that as its name implies, the privately held Canonsburg company is truly global in scope.
Pietrala told members at the Washington County Chamber of Commerce\’s Friday breakfast meeting at the Holiday Inn that the company, which is currently expanding its Canonsburg headquarters to accommodate its growth, has been on 750 job sites around the world since it started business 27 years ago.
“Not bad for a company on Four Coins Drive in Canonsburg,” Pietrala said, noting that Aquatech is adding 10,000 square feet of office space as a result of a new $75 million project it won in Italy last year and a $132 million job it has in Oman in the Middle East.
Aquatech, which was founded with seven employees in 1981 by the late Prem Sharma, is now owned by the third generation of Sharma\’s family, and has more than 370 employees, including 177 in Canonsburg. The company had more than $100 million in revenue in 2007, Pietrala said.
While acknowledging Aquatech\’s name is a tip-off that it has something to do with water, Pietrala explained that it uses its engineering expertise to provide water treatment for an array of industrial users.
“We don\’t sell water or water in a bottle or swimming pools,” Pietrala said. “What we do sell is technology that makes the bottle that water comes in” as well as a number of other industrial applications, including wastewater treatment, desalination and water reuse. The projects cut across power generation, petrochemical production, mineral processing, food and beverage production and the life sciences.
“Every process requires water,” Pietrala said.
Last year, Aquatech landed a contract with Italy\’s Enelpower to enable it to convert five of its oil-fired generating plants to coal-fired operations without causing any additional environmental impact.
According to Pietrala, the company also is finding new sources of revenue under a “BOOT” program, an acronym for build, own, operate and transfer of some of the treatment projects it builds. He explained that many countries don\’t want to operate the plants, paying Aquatech to perform the service. He said the arrangement is in place in Saudi Arabia, where Aquatech\’s plants produce water for the country.
While the world is currently fixated on the movement of oil prices and output, Pietrala, who previously worked for industrial giants Westinghouse and Emerson, said water is quickly becoming the new oil around the globe.
“If there are any future geopolitical wars, they\’re likely to be fought over water,” he said.