In an extremely price-sensitive market, membrane bioreactor (MBR) companies are trying to wrestle advantage away from the significantly lower-priced conventional technologies. MBRs’ prices are considered to be still relatively prohibitive despite their constantly declining prices of membranes.
MBR companies can achieve cost efficiencies by establishing local supply networks, developing local partners as well as training and utilizing local workforce. They also hope to cover new ground by actively promoting their products’ small footprint and high efficiency treatment in processes such as nutrient removal.
These features will be popular among municipal customers that need to comply with regulations and tighten discharge limits. In the industrial segment, MBRs will find many takers for its ability to facilitate reuse and of treated wastewater as well as its attractive payback period.
The MBR market has received a huge boost in the municipal segment with the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive (UWWTD) requiring lower nutrient discharge limits. The ceiling for discharge is even more severe in “sensitive areas.” MBR systems are ideal in such cases due to their high treatment efficiency, which helps companies comply with norms and regulations. MBR systems also gain an edge over conventional systems with their ability to greatly reduce sludge.
“In the industrial segment, the implementation of Integrated Pollution Prevention Control (IPPC), especially it coming into force in the food and beverage sector in 2004, has driven the demand for MBR systems,” says Fredrick Royan, research analyst with Frost & Sullivan. “Moreover, IPPC’s thrust on application of Best Available Technology (BAT) for treatment of wastewater and the aspect of favorable reuse and recycling have boosted the market for MBRs.”
As the European Union turns its attention to small- and medium-sized municipalities, and as industries begin to meet IPPC requirements, there will be greater investments in the market in the long term. In order to facilitate a more rapid conversion to MBR systems, market participants will have to offer references and customer education.
The $57 million MBR market is set to more than double its size over the next seven years. MBR manufacturers need to analyze and understand end user specifics so that they can customize their products to suit unique regional characteristics. Some issues they need to consider while developing tailor-made products are water stress in the Iberian peninsular and specific application requirements including the complex effluent characteristics in the lucrative, not yet fully untapped chemicals industries.