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Global Water Intelligence report cites that municipal sludge treatment is on the rise
A new report from Global Water Intelligence (GWI) investigates the transforming sludge management market. Municipal sludge treatment is on the rise, and attracting a widening portfolio of specialist technologies. More wastewater treatment, tightening regulations and green incentives make it a good, if heavily regional, market. GWI’s new report on sludge management showcases opportunities in this growth market.
The wastewater treatment industry is effectively a sludge generation industry. If the wastewater from the world’s urban population were to be collected and treated, the sludge generated would rise from 75 million tons in 2012 to 83 million by 2017—before industrial development is even taken into account. And in one year, enough sludge would be generated to cover an area equivalent to Singapore in a layer 10 cm thick.
A market snapshot
GWI explains that the increased sludge production volumes are driving the wastewater treatment industry to implement new sludge management processes. Municipal sludge treatment is on the agenda due to limited land space, tightening regulations across the globe and health concerns. This will soon consign dumping untreated sludge and land filling to the past. Safely treating municipal sludge is a big business, worth an estimated $7.3 billion in 2012.
The wastewater treatment industry is seeking alternative disposal options that enable them to handle their sludge more safely and cost effectively. The fundamental driver behind sludge management is to treat the sludge in a way that will reduce its volume. The smaller the volume, the lower the costs associated with transportation and disposal. Wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) operators must also consider the large energy input needed to treat sludge, and for this reason, high energy costs and subsidies for renewable energy are likely to make energy recovery options increasingly attractive going forward.
A good, if heavily regional, market
The global municipal sludge equipment market is set to grow by 5.7% by 2017 – from $7.1 billion in 2011 to $9.9 billion in 2017. The strongest growth will be in anaerobic digestion, which is set to reach a value of $1.3 billion by 2017. Thickening and dewatering technologies will remain the largest investment area, reaching a value of $3.1 billion in 2017.
This growth is healthier than the water and wastewater markets due to the contributions of two distinct ‘submarkets’. National programs in China and Brazil to increase the number of people who receive wastewater treatment services will significantly increase the volumes of sludge produced. In these countries, the biggest opportunities for investment will be in fundamental sludge treatment technologies, including thickening, dewatering and basic stabilization. Stricter environmental regulations mean that operators will also have to start treating the sludge produced by existing treatment plants.
Where the sludge generated from wastewater treatment plants is already thickened, dewatered and stabilized—as is the case in many developed nations—the appetite is for more advanced technologies. Biogas generation and energy recovery are increasing in prominence, especially in the EU where the renewable energy incentives can be considerable.
Despite the slowdown caused by pressure on public sector spending, Western Europe will remain the largest single market for sludge management equipment. The markets with the most rapid growth will be those countries which are investing heavily in increasing wastewater treatment volumes, using more advanced wastewater treatment technologies, and increasing sludge management capacity accordingly. These include Brazil, China and the 12 states that have recently joined the European Union.
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