Membrane Bioreactors in the Changing World Water Market

Published - Jan 2006| Analyst - Susan Hanft| Code - MST047A
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Report Highlights

  • Valued at an estimated $216.6 million in 2005, the global MBR market is rising at an average annual growth rate (AAGR) of 10.9% and is expected to approach $363 million in 2010.
  • This segment is growing faster than the larger market for advanced wastewater treatment equipment and more rapidly than the markets for other types of membrane systems.
  • Anticipated stricter environmental regulations in the U.S. and overseas are driving sales of MBRs to industry and municipalities, and prompting maritime users to consider MBR technology.
  • During the forecast period, sewage treatment will continue to be the primary use for MBR systems.



The need for pure water is a problem of global proportions. In the earth’s hydrologic cycle, fresh water supplies are fixed and constant, while global water demand is growing. With each passing year the quality of the planet’s water measurably deteriorates, presenting challenges for the major users: the municipal, industrial and environmental sectors.

Water treatment has become an area of global concern as individuals, communities, industries, nations, and their national institutions strive for ways to keep this essential resource available and suitable for use. Membrane bioreactor systems (MBRs) have, over the past ten years, emerged as an effective solution to transforming various wastewaters into high quality effluent suitable for discharge into the environment and increasingly into a reusable product.

This BCC market research report presents analysis and forward thinking knowledge that will be of advantage to manufacturers, suppliers, and to local and state governments, the federal government as well as foreign governments. Engineers, utilities and corporate planners will benefit in accessing the global demand for membrane bioreactors.


The report contains:

  • Analysis of the membrane and biological components of MBRs
  • Examination of system configurations and typical MBR performance
  • Cost analyses and system applications
  • Examination of companies active in the market, market share and industry structure
  • Quantitative evaluations for the major market segments, both historically and with forecasts to 2010
  • Identification of the global scope of the MBR market within four major geographical regions with information on regional economics, water needs, MBR experience and proposed projects.


Research for this report began with a re-analysis of the available technical and literature, as well as an evaluation of the personal records of the water treatment industry available to the author. Conversations with industry experts and company representatives and a review of their published works provide the backbone for an evaluation of the water treatment equipment industry. Other sources of information include product literature from system suppliers, patent information, annual reports, and BCC Research monthly newsletter Membrane & Separation Technology News.

Growth rates of MBR systems are not the same for all world regions and are not increasing from the same base. Common to all regions, however, is the fact that sales of the technology are growing faster than the GDPs of countries installing the systems and more rapidly than the industries that use them. Forecasts in this report are based on announced projects and anticipated capacity additions over the next 5 years.

MBR costs are based on published data and interviews with industry participants. MBR "systems" include headworks (screens, pumps, grit chamber) and other pretreatment systems, membrane units, reactor vessels and other process tanks. Site costs, system installation costs, piping, instrumentation, and electrical/electronic controls are not included in the cost analysis.

The capital cost of a 50,000-gallon per day plant was calculated at $350,000, a 100,000- gallon per day plant at $500,000 and a 500,000- gallon per day plant at $2 million. For systems 1 mgd and larger, a capital cost starting at $3.5 million was used. It was assumed that the largest percentage of new system installations, 93%, will continue to fall into the 5,000-gallon per day to 500,000-gallon per day range (most of those, 57%, will have capacities of less than 25,000 gallons per day), 2% of installations will range from 0.5 million gallons per day to 1 million gallons per day and 5% will be larger than 1 million gallons per day.

Currency conversions are normalized in so far as possible. Much of the historic information is from BCC data.


The information sources for this study include online research, patent literature, technical journals and interviews with principals in the industry. The monthly newsletter Membrane & Separation Technology News published by BCC Research provides regular updates on industry and technology news events influencing the membrane industry.

In evaluating the global market for membrane bioreactors, information was obtained from the U.S. Department of Commerce; U.S. Department of State; Aquastat, the United Nation's global water information system and publications from the American Water Works Association, the Water Environment Federation, the European Commission, the Water Resources Institute and various academic institutions. Projections for each market are made in terms of constant dollars. Historical values are for the year given.


During the past 6 years, Susan Hanft has authored more than 12 BCC market opportunity reports in the fields of membrane technology and water/wastewater treatment. Hanft also serves as editor of the BCC newsletter, Membrane & Separations Technology News.

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