Double-digit growth in RO market due to membrane bioreactors and desalination


March 31, 2004 -- The market for cross-flow membrane equipment and membranes will grow from $6.3 billion worldwide in 2004 to over $8.4 billion in 2007, a new report says. Desalination alone will account for over one third of this growth and revenues in this sector will grow to $1.8 billion in 2007.

The fastest growing segment of the market is in membrane bioreactors. Both municipal and industrial revenues will grow by more than 15 percent per year in this segment which combines biological treatment and membrane filtration. These forecasts are contained in the continuously updated online RO, UF, MF World Markets, published by the McIlvaine Company.

Reverse Osmosis membranes remove salts but require high pressures and, therefore, considerable energy consumption. Nevertheless, the high removal efficiency is needed for desalination and complete elimination of pathogens.

Ultrafiltration is somewhat less efficient but utilizes far less energy. Growth in this sector has been associated with the food industry, and more recently in the purification of drinking water.

Microfiltration is the least efficient membrane technology but consumes little energy. Microfiltration has become very popular for use in municipal drinking water plants. It is used in wastewater treatment in combination with biological treatment. Compact membrane bioreactors have capital and performance advantages over conventional biological treatment systems.

The high growth rates and promising future of the cross-flow membrane industry have attracted some of the world's largest companies. GE is prioritizing water as a growth engine. It is already a major player in cross-flow membranes due to the acquisition of Osmonics.

ITT has made several recent acquisitions to position itself in the membrane market. ITT Industries has recently completed the acquisition of Shanghai Hengtong Purified Water Development Co. Ltd. and Shanghai Hengtong Water Treatment Engineering Co. Ltd. (Hengtong), a Shanghai-based producer of Reverse-Osmosis (RO), membrane, and other water treatment systems for the power, pharmaceutical, chemical, and manufacturing markets in China.

The U.S. will remain the largest RO market through 2007.

Following are projected reverse osmosis equipment and membrane revenues for 2007, in millions of dollars:

United States, 958
Japan, 301
Saudi Arabia, 297
China, 292
South Korea, 192
Spain, 160
Taiwan, 122
India, 114
Germany, 113
United Kingdom, 95

However, growth in Saudi Arabia and China will position these countries closer to the U.S. and among the top four purchasers in the world. Japan will hold on to second place as a membrane purchaser. It will also maintain its role as a leading supplier and exporter of membranes and membrane technology.

For more information on RO/UF/MF World Markets contact:

McIlvaine Company
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