Press Releases

Rapid Cost Reductions, Tech Advances, Bolstering Investments in Desalination Markets

April 05, 2016

Wellesley, Mass., April 05, 2016 –Reverse osmosis (RO) technology should account for more than 50% of total global installed desalination capacity by end of 2015.  BCC Research reveals in its new report that advances in membrane technology and the development of energy recovery devices, along with new RO installations in Middle East and Africa, should grow this technology’s already dominant market share during the forecast period (2015-2020).

The United Nations defines water stress when annual water supplies drop below 1,700 m3 per person.  If supplies drop below 1,000 m3 per person, the population is said to be in water scarcity.  Below 500 m3 per person constitutes sever water scarcity.  Presently, more than 700 million people in 43 countries are experiencing water scarcity.  By 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in places with severe water scarcity; two-thirds of the global population will encounter some degree of water stress.  If warming continues at the same pace, by 2030 half of the world’s population will experience severe water stress.

Increasingly, desalination systems are selected as an effective option to deliver pure water to the public by transforming saline, brackish and contaminated water into useable and/or potable products. In part, this increased demand drives the development of technical advances in the processes, parallel price drops in the processes, especially membrane-based methods. These advances have made desalination systems affordable for countries that were previously unable to consider the possibility. This has created a robust and rapidly growing market in which projects and corporate developments are constantly evolving.

The global cumulative investments in desalination plants reached almost $21.4 billion in 2015 and should reach nearly $48.2 billion by 2020, reflecting a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 17.6%.

Two major process types—thermal (distillation) and membrane-based—are employed for desalting saline water. In the past decade, technical improvements in membrane-based RO desalination have increased energy efficiency of the desalination process and reduced RO operating costs. By the end of 2015, RO will account for about 55% of global capacity. The primary thermal technologies are Multi-stage Flash (MSF), 21% and Multi-effect Distillation (MED), about 7%. Electrodialysis (ED), Electrodeionization (EDI) and Nanofiltration (NF) technologies make up the balance of installed capacity at about 16%.  Experts estimate that advances in membrane technology and the development of energy recovery devices, coupled with the co-location of RO plants with power-generating facilities, have resulted in a reduction in the cost of desalinated water of up to 80%.

“Continuing a trend, RO will keep taking market share from thermal desalination processes in all markets, including the Middle East where thermal technologies had been favored,” says BCC Research analyst Gerry Runte. “By the end of 2020, RO is expected to comprise over 60% of global capacity. Nonetheless, RO is still a higher cost source of water than conventional sources.”

Seawater and Brackish Water Desalination (MST052D) analyzes the global water resource status and the growing gap between freshwater resources and water demand from all sectors. Within this global context, the specific growth drivers for and the challenges to the evolution of the desalination equipment market are presented, along with a technical overview of the primary desalination technologies and novel distillation methods. Data from 2014, data estimates for 2015, and projections of CAGRs through 2020 also are provided.

Editors and reporters who wish to speak with the analyst should contact Steven Cumming at steven.cumming@bccresearch.com.

Seawater and Brackish Water Desalination( MST052D )
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