Membrane market will be US$ 2.8 billion by 2020, says report

The total market for membrane-based water treatment will grow from US$ 1.5 billion in 2009 to US$ 2.8 billion in 2020, according to a new report from Lux Research.

Already the dominant technology for desalination, membranes are expanding into markets that were once the exclusive domain of chemical, biological and basic filtration technologies, says the report, Filtering Out Growth Prospects in the $1.5 Billion Membrane Market.

The report’s key observations include:

Reverse osmosis (RO) membranes are the largest technology, but ultrafiltration (UF) is set for fast growth. Reaching US$ 1.3 billion in 2020, RO membranes will continue to be the biggest segment of the market. However, fueled in part by their promise in treating municipal wastewater, industrial process water and other types of water, UF membranes should see a healthy 6.5% compound annual growth rate, expanding from US$ 0.4 billion in 2009 to nearly US$ 0.7 billion in 2020.

Although market size will grow for RO, profits become more elusive. RO membrane prices have been eroded by a lack of differentiation and been undercut by competition from Chinese manufacturers. Providers have fought back by bundling value-added services and chemicals with their membranes, or by tapping new technologies to improve membrane performance.

But the limited number of solutions has forced most providers to pursue similar paths, and the lack of differentiation and cost erosion will persist, says the report.

Recycled municipal water will boom. In regions of extreme water stress, such as India and China, the idea of municipal water recycling is catching on.

The Indian government alone plans to spend several billion dollars over the next 5-10 years treating the Ganges River. This expansion in municipal water filtration will drive growth in membranes for ultrafiltration, microfiltration and low-pressure RO.