The global membrane separation technology market size was valued at USD 25.33 billion in 2022. It is estimated to reach USD 70.8 billion in 2031, growing at a CAGR of 12.1% during the forecast period (2023–2031).
Membrane separation technology separates and purifies a particular component from the remainder of a composition. "Membrane technology" refers to a broad category of distinctive separation techniques. These procedures are the same type because a membrane is used in each one. Using membranes, groundwater, surface water, or wastewater are often converted into process water. Membranes are currently competitive with traditional methods. Also, semi-permeable membranes are a prerequisite for the membrane separation procedure.
Membrane separation technology is widely employed in the commercial and industrial sectors. The characteristics of membrane separation technology, such as its durability, permeability, porosity, stability, and selectivity, make them indispensable in various industrial applications. Water and wastewater treatment, food and beverage, industrial, medical, laboratory, and research applications utilize membrane separation technology to purify, concentrate, and sterilize samples.
Water treatment processes have recently witnessed a brisk rise in demand, which can be attributed to several factors. One of the major reasons for the rise in demand is the scarcity of quality drinking water. Water treatment procedures have been prompted by the acceleration of water resource depletion and contamination of surface and groundwater bodies due to the expanding population. The water supplied to households by municipal corporations is not subjected to heavy treatment processes due to financial infeasibility, capacity crunch, and inability to perform high-intensity water filtration. This trend is prevalent in developing regions such as Asia-Pacific and Central and South America. These regions have witnessed rapid population growth accompanied by brisk industrialization recently. They are presumed to witness similar trends soon as well. Water filters and filtration systems are anticipated to be in high demand due to a lack of pure water.
The world is facing unprecedented levels of water scarcity due to changes in rainfall patterns and overexploitation of groundwater and surface water resources. Seawater desalination has emerged as a viable alternative to narrow the water demand-supply gap, particularly in addressing domestic and municipal needs. Rapid improvement in reverse osmosis (RO) membrane technology and considerable reduction in RO modules have changed the market dynamics in favor of seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) technology.
According to the GWI Desal database, approximately 69% of the total operational desalination plants used reverse osmosis technology. Most SWRO plants are in developed economies, including the U.S., Great Britain, and Spain. As per the 2020 GWI data, around 59% of the total installed desalination capacity in Saudi Arabia used MSF distillation, while reverse osmosis accounted for only 28% of the total capacity. However, the country plans to shift to RO technology over the coming years, resulting in a huge scope to establish its foothold in relatively underdeveloped markets. Such factors drive market growth.
Polymers are an important raw material for the production of membranes. PES, PVDF, and polypropylene are the most widely used polymers to produce membrane modules. The production of polypropylene is dominated by Asia-Pacific, accounting for over half of the total production, with China alone contributing over 25% of the production.
Propylene produced by cracking naphtha is used in polypropylene production via the polymerization process. Any change in petroleum, naphtha, or propylene prices directly affects polypropylene prices. The prices of polymers follow the prices of oil with a lag. Hence, any movement can result in the volatility of the producer margin. Thus, such factors are expected to restrain global market growth.
Stringent regulatory framework and environmental concerns are expected to play a critical role in shaping the membrane separation technology industry in the near future. Government regulations and policies that govern water treatment for industrial and domestic wastewater are anticipated to positively impact the water filtration industry, thereby driving the demand for membrane separation technology. Such policies and regulations have prompted industry participants to invest heavily in water treatment technologies.
Additionally, standards and norms set by associations such as NSF International, previously known as the National Sanitation Foundation, govern water filters. NSF International has standards that overlook domestic and industrial water filters and filtration systems. Government policies have mandated that wastewater, including both industrial and domestic wastewater, be treated properly before being discharged. Therefore, the factor above creates opportunities for market expansion.
The global membrane separation technology market is segmented by technology and application.
Based on technology, the global membrane separation technology market is bifurcated into microfiltration, ultrafiltration, nanofiltration, and reverse osmosis.
The reverse osmosis segment dominates the global market and is projected to exhibit a CAGR of 11.9% over the forecast period. The surging adoption of reverse osmosis as an alternative to traditional thermal desalination technology is expected to drive the market. Reverse osmosis technology uses membranes with less than 1 nm pore size. It removes all organic molecules, viruses, and minerals in the water. It removes all the bivalent and monovalent ions, thereby desalinating the water. Reverse osmosis is chiefly used for the purification of water and wastewater. It also produces ultrapure water (UPW), landfill leachate treatment, and seawater and brine water desalination.
Reverse osmosis technology exhibits a considerably higher recovery rate than traditional thermal desalination processes such as multistage flash distillation (MSF) and multiple effect distillation (MED). As a result, reverse osmosis technology is rapidly replacing the thermal desalination process in saltwater desalination plants worldwide. There has been a growing scarcity of freshwater resources across the world. Developing new desalination facilities requires significant investment from nations including Saudi Arabia, China, India, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Therefore, the reverse osmosis segment is anticipated to experience significant growth over the forecast period.
Reverse osmosis and ultrafiltration are both forms of the liquid membrane separation technique known as nanofiltration. These membranes' pore structure is relatively large compared to RO membranes. These membranes cannot filter salts as a result. Nanofiltration membranes contain pores between 1 and 5 nm in size and have a molecular weight cutoff of 150 to 500 Dalton. Nanofiltration technology removes most organic contaminants, almost all viruses, salts, and natural organic matter from water and wastewater. Nanofiltration membranes recover spent acids and caustic solutions from industrial effluents. It can be used for the elimination of dyes and colorants from the wastewater generated by textiles and leather processing industries.
Based on application, the global membrane separation technology market is segmented into water and wastewater treatment, industry processing, food and beverage processing, pharmaceutical and medical, and others.
The water and wastewater treatment segment owns the highest market share and is estimated to exhibit a CAGR of 11.4% during the forecast period. The world's population is growing quickly, and expanding industrialization and urbanization significantly damage existing freshwater resources. The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) report published in 2015 suggested that the world could face a 40% shortfall in water supply if no changes were made to the present water management systems. In addition, the changing rainfall pattern and overexploitation of groundwater resources are expected to adversely impact water availability over the forecast period. Numerous governing bodies and regulatory organizations have published numerous rules and requirements on water treatment and disposal to protect the environment. Strict enforcement of these regulations prompts industries to adopt environment-friendly wastewater treatment processes, favoring the global demand for membrane separation technologies.
Membrane filtration processes are majorly used to remove contaminants such as unwanted particles and microorganisms from wine, soft drinks, beer, juices, milk, bottled water, edible oil, and others in the food and beverage industry. Liquid filtration helps eliminate minute particles from the products above, ensuring food safety. Membrane filtering technology market expansion in this application category is anticipated to be driven by government laws on food safety and pollution control during the forecast period. In addition, membrane separation technology has witnessed widespread adoption in the dairy processing industry. Milk condensation, protein separation, and fat separation are some of the primary applications of membrane separation technology. As a result, the growing demand for dairy products will boost the market over the forecast period.
Based on region, the global membrane separation technology market is bifurcated into North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, Central and South America, and the Middle East and Africa.
Asia-Pacific is the most significant global membrane separation technology market shareholder and is anticipated to exhibit a CAGR of 13.6% during the forecast period. The rapid pace of industrialization and urbanization is proving to be a major factor in driving the demand for membrane separation technology. Due to fast industrialization and strict laws by various governments to ensure environmental quality, Asia's membrane separation technology market is anticipated to grow tremendously. In addition, environmental pollution is predicted to increase due to the expansion of sectors like mining, metal processing, and chemicals. Increasing water pollution and growing environmental concerns are anticipated to promote the implementation of wastewater treatment processes, thereby propelling the use of membrane separation technologies over the forecast period.
Europe is estimated to exhibit a CAGR of 9.3% over the forecast period. Europe has the most stringent laws regarding water treatment. The water policy of the EU is primarily driven by three directives, including "The Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive," "The Drinking Water Directive," and "Water Framework Directive." "The Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive" includes measures to monitor and regulate the discharge of municipal and industrial wastewater in the European Union. "The Drinking Water Directive" concerns potable water quality, and the "Water Framework Directive" takes care of water resource management. The abovementioned policies emphasize the need to increase the spending on the establishment of wastewater treatment plants. In addition, Europe is one of the largest producers of alcoholic beverages, such as wine and beer. The region has a well-developed dairy industry with over 12,000 milk processing and production sites. Europe produced the most cheese and whey in the world in 2019. The region is at the forefront regarding membrane separation technology for food and beverage applications.
In North America, the market for membrane separation technology is predicted to increase quickly due to the technology's quick uptake by application industries. Due to the strict regulations and industrial legislation that the EPA has created governing water filtration performance and requirements, the demand for ultrafiltration in North America is anticipated to increase over the forecast period. Strict government regulations to control wastewater disposal from municipal and industrial sources are expected to augment market growth. In addition, the growing oil and gas industry and increasing product demand from power generation industries in nations like the U.S. and Canada are expected to promote water filtration activities, driving the market's growth. The pharmaceutical industry in North America is also expected to grow exponentially due to various research and development activities related to healthcare products. Implementing regulatory norms to discharge pharmaceutical effluents will promote market growth over the projection period.
Central and South America will grow in popularity for mining investments and oil and gas development because of their relatively low production costs and welcoming regulatory environment. Environmental damage occurs due to mining activities that release hazardous effluent into the environment. The need for membrane separation technology will increase as national governments and environmental protection organizations place strict laws on mining enterprises to reduce the contamination of freshwater streams and water bodies.
In the Middle East and Africa, the rising preference for seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) is projected to positively impact market growth. Strict government norms imposed on companies to limit the number of pollutants released into the environment are expected to propel market growth. The imposition of a fine on industries that release pollutants into the environment and fail to match the pollution control standards is expected to promote the establishment of wastewater filtration plants in the region. The rapidly growing industrial sector, coupled with stringent government and environmental regulations, is expected to promote the growth of the membrane separation technology market over the forecast period.
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