$5 Billion 2015 Desalination Market for Pumps, Valves, Filters and Chemicals


The market for pumps, valves, filters and chemicals for use in desalination will exceed $5 billion in 2015. This is the conclusion reached by the McIlvaine Company in aggregating forecasts in a number of its reports.

California with its drought crisis is at the epi-center of the desalination activity. Seventeen plants are in planning stages along the coast to convert saltwater from the ocean or bays, including one near Concord that would convert 20 million gallons a day of drinkable water.

A plant under construction near San Diego will be biggest desalination facility in the Western Hemisphere when it begins operations in 2016. The $1 billion plant will produce 50 million gallons of potable water daily. A $400 million plant could begin construction in Monterey County by 2018.

Activity in the Middle East will also be high although other areas of the world are gaining market share. The biggest hardware investment will be in cross-flow membrane equipment. Consumable expenditures with the highest revenue generation will be replacement membrane modules and treatment chemicals.

Treatment chemical cost averages 0.03 $/m3 of capacity in seawater, reverse osmosis (RO) systems and 0.02/ $/m3 in thermal systems. There is substantial use of scale inhibitors in thermal systems. Acids and antifoams are used in MSF systems. Cleaning chemicals are a substantial investment where RO is employed.

The amount of water being pumped in desalination systems is presently only about one percent of the amount being pumped for all the world s drinking supplies. On the other hand, the high pressure pumps needed for reverse osmosis are an order of magnitude more expensive than those used for drinking water transport.

Thermal systems require pumps for a number of processes:

Seawater intake pumps

  • Brine recirculation pumps
  • Brine blow-down pumps
  • Distillate extraction pumps
  • Condensate extraction pumps
  • Product forwarding pumps

Thermal systems require substantial numbers of valves. The high pressure membrane desalination systems require expensive valves to deal with the corrosive conditions as well as the pressures.

Pre-filtration for the reverse osmosis (RO) systems and initial purification of water which will be evaporated in thermal systems is accomplished with liquid macrofiltration and cartridges. Automatic backwash filters and sand filters are frequently used. Liquid wastes are dewatered in filter presses.

Cartridges are used to remove particles which are too small to be captured in liquid macrofiltration equipment, but too large and plentiful to be handled by cross-flow membranes. There has been a high replacement frequency on cartridges.

An alternative to liquid macrofiltration is sedimentation. Clarifiers and dissolved air flotation systems are selected for a number of systems. The desalting takes place in either thermal systems where the water is evaporated or by separation with cross-flow membranes. RO does the final separation. Macro or ultrafilters are often used to pre-filter and protect the RO membranes.

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