Membrane System Sales to Reach $9 Billion in 2008

Feb. 15, 2005

The demand for pure water will drive the market for cross-flow membrane equipment and membrane from $6.8 billion worldwide in 2005 to $9 billion in 2008. Desalination alone will account for over one third of this growth and revenues in this sector will grow to $2 billion in 2008. These forecasts are contained in the continuously updated online, RO, UF, MF World Markets, published by the McIlvaine Co.

Reverse osmosis (RO) 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. RO costs have dropped while alternative desalination methods using heat for evaporation and condensation have risen. This is due to increasing energy costs. The result is an increase in the market share for membrane desalination.

The lack of fresh drinking water together with the high incomes in the Middle East has created the demand and the capability to construct new membrane desalination plants. Saudi Arabia is the third largest purchaser of reverse osmosis membranes and equipment. The U.S. and Japan are first and second.

Asia suffers from a lack of water resources as well as contamination of the water which is available. Unreliable municipal water supplies have caused the middle and upper classes to purchase home RO systems despite the $1,000 selling price of systems offered in upscale department stores in major cities such as Shangahi. By 2008 the RO equipment and membrane market in Asia will exceed $1.8 billion per year.

Ultrafiltration (UF) is somewhat less efficient than RO 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. The use of ultrafiltration in purification of drinking water and the reclamation of tertiary wastewater have doubled in the last four years. Sand filters are still the most popular filtration technology for drinking water purification, but membranes are making inroads. UF and MF membrane usage as a percentage of total municipal water treatment in leading countries is as follows:

Country -- Percent of Water Treated with UF/MF Membranes

* Singapore -- 12.0

* Australia -- 4.0

* Netherlands -- 3.1

* U.S. -- 2.5

* U.K. -- 2.0

* Israel -- 1.2

The use of ultrafiltration for biotechnology is growing at a pace even faster than the industry itself. By 2008 the pharmaceutical and biotech industries will be purchasing cross-flow equipment at the rate of $700 million per year and membranes and modules at the rate of $300 million per year.

Microfiltration is the least efficient membrane technology but consumes little energy. Microfiltration has become very popular for use in municipal drinking water plants. Microfiltration is used in wastewater treatment in combination with biological treatment. Compact membrane bioreactors have capital and performance advantages over conventional biological treatment systems. Sales of microfiltration equipment and membranes will rise from $1.9 billion in 2005 to $2.5 billion in 2008.

Source: McIlvaine Company

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