Membrane demand to reach US$19.3 billion

According to World Membrane Separation Technologies, a new study from Cleveland-based industry market research firm The Freedonia Group, countries seeing the fastest growth include the BRIC countries and others with large, developing industrial bases and stressed local water resources. Combined, the US and China are expected to account for 46% of the market gains between 2010 and 2015, while North America, the largest regional market, accounted for one-third of global membrane sales in 2010 and will increase 8.3% annually through 2015. Gains in the US market will be helped by the ongoing development of improved membranes and related systems to accommodate newer water quality regulations and the use of low-quality water in water-stressed regions, the report suggests.

In comparison, while Western Europe and Japan are similar to the US in the maturity of their water infrastructures, this maturity will actually lead to membrane demand growth well below the global average. However, the increased emphasis on conservation through water recycling could boost sales. 

In developing countries, demand will follow the continued growth of water-intensive industries, the increased need to tap brackish or otherwise poor quality water resources, and rising investment in modernising water and waste infrastructure. However, in many of the least developed countries – especially in Africa and parts of South Asia – growth could be more limited due to lack of adequate funding and local corruption that impedes progress.

Meanwhile, much of the Middle East, North Africa and the Caribbean have already invested heavily in seawater and brackish water treatment to ensure a sufficient supply of water for drinking, agriculture and industry use. 

While water treatment, the largest market for membranes, will grow due to upgrades of water treatment infrastructures and a projected rebound in manufacturing activity, Freedonia suggests that the best opportunities for growth will emerge in the pharmaceutical and medical market, and other smaller markets such as chemical processing and environmental applications, as these industries continue to develop globally and create new uses for membranes.