Desalination is the Hottest Segment of the Booming Membrane Market

Suppliers of liquid purification systems employing membranes are thankful that there is a steadily growing market in a world economy that has been anything but robust. Specifically, suppliers of reverse osmosis, ultrafiltration, microfiltration equipment and membranes will enjoy a $8.2 billion market in 2007 up from $5.9 billion this year. This prediction is contained in the most recent update of the McIlvaine online forecast entitled, RO, UF, MF World Markets.

The report points out that desalination is the fastest growing segment of the market. Salt water makes up 97 percent of the water in the world. Only 3 percent is fresh water, and much of it is inaccessible. Desalination was once a prohibitively expensive alternative but both capital and operating costs have halved over the decade making this option much more competitive.

At the same time, contamination and scarcity have made the alternative more expensive. The result is that the market for desalination equipment and membranes will rise from $1.1 billion this year to over $1.8 billion in 2007.

Reverse osmosis systems are used in power, semiconductor, pharmaceutical and other plants that need ultrapure processing water. However desalination is the biggest segment. This explains why Saudi Arabia will be the third largest purchaser of reverse osmosis membranes and systems in 2007. The rankings will be as follows:

1. United States

2. Japan

3. Saudi Arabia

4. China

5. South Korea

6. Spain

7. India

8. Germany

9. Taiwan

10. United Kingdom

Microfiltration and ultrafiltration do not play a big role in purifying saltwater but increasingly they are replacing sand filters and chemicals as a means of purifying drinking water. Membranes have proven their ability to separate the disease causing microbes. Ultrafiltration finds considerable use in food and biotechnology applications. The market for ultrafiltration equipment and membranes will rise to $2.5 billion in 2007 up from $1.8 billion in 2003. The world market for microfiltration will rise from $1.6 billion this year to $2.2 billion in 2007. The market for reverse osmosis membranes and equipment will exceed $3.5 billion in 2007 up from $2.4 billion this year.

Larger companies are entering the field due to the attractive growth and synergy with existing product lines. GE recently purchased Osmonics. It combined Betz, Osmonics, and Glegg to form a water group. Several of the larger pump companies have purchased membrane manufacturers with the intent of combining separation with flow control. Other major companies such as Suez, Dow, and USFilter (Vivendi) are long time participants in the field.

Nevertheless, there are still thousands of small companies participating in the market around the world. They include suppliers of vessels, membranes, equipment, and engineered systems. The industry also is a major user of pumps, valves, instrumentation, and piping.


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