Water-stressed Chinese industries make a beeline for membrane bioreactor technology

Government initiatives enable the MBR market to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 28.9 per cent from 2010 to 2017.

A new report China Membrane Bioreactor (MBR) Market Outlook Ambitious Water Reuse Targets to Boost Local Membrane Industry and Fuel Exponential Growth from Frost & Sullivan, finds that the market earned revenues of $228 million in 2010 and estimates this to reach $1,351 million in 2017.

'As one of the recommended technologies by the Ministry of Environment Protection of China, MBR appears the most feasible solution to the water reuse problems, especially with the country's improving technology and operation management skills,' says Frost & Sullivan Consulting Analyst Jennie Peng. 'The Chinese Government's 12th five-year plan (2011 to 2015) provides directive guidelines for water reclamation and reuse which strongly encourages the widespread use of MBR applications.'

The Chinese MBR market witnessed exponential growth in the past three to four years and is expected to maintain this momentum. A shot in the arm for the MBR market was the staging of three important events in the country: the Olympic Games in Beijing, the Shanghai Expo and Guangzhou Asia Games in 2008 and 2010. MBR technology won the tender for ancillary water treatment facility for reclamation and reuse purposes, considerably raising its revenue and profile in the water reclamation market.

While the potential is vast, MBR technology has to sort out glitches relating to membrane material fouling and raise customer awareness of the tangible benefits of the systems. Companies are looking to equip end users with more sophisticated operational skills for a better understanding of the benefits of the systems and education and demonstration are crucial to fully utilise the potential of the technology.

Market participants also have to strategize to deal with the relatively low tariffs in a way that will allow them to recoup their investments and operational cost of the systems, as well as offset the high market concentration that hinders the market entry of new participants.

The local government has to mark a special budget for the wastewater reclamation market to ensure its sustained development. These efforts at the government and industrial levels augur well for the market and are expected to help it hold its course.

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