Shanghai Showcase: The Rise of China’s Domestic Market

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Shanghai Showcase: The Rise of China’s Domestic Market

This year’s Aquatech China show in Shanghai saw key announcements from the international membrane suppliers in a bid to further establish a peg in Chinese soil and differentiate themselves from what is becoming a packed domestic market.                             

One delegate told WWi that there’s as many as 800 Chinese membrane manufacturers and suppliers operating in China alone. This has been chiefly driven as a result of a move from the government back in February 2012.

It was during this month that China's State Council announced its 12th Five-Year Plan (FYP) for desalination. In this, it established a higher than expected target of 2.2 – 2.6 million m3/day of online capacity by 2015. This compares to less than 1 million m3/day today.                                                  

Further to this, a goal stipulated that 70% of all equipment used in desalination plants should be produced in the country. Despite the large number of companies, one source told WWi that the majority still do not pose a severe threat to established global companies.

The bulk of these companies fail to generate in the region of US$5 million to US$10 million per year and will perhaps win one-off projects, resulting in revenue spikes. However, over the long-term such revenue will not be enough to truly grow into a multinational company. Many of these smaller companies will simply fade away after five years, he said.                                    

Other delegates said that as the Chinese water filtration market is so large, there is quite literally “something for everybody”. This is meaning that membranes are being developed for even more specialised applications.                                        

One example was the launch of an ultrafiltration (UF) membrane from CSM for cathodic electrocoat paint (CEP) applications. Electrocoating involves the electrophoretic deposition of charged paint particles in an aqueous solution onto a conductive workpiece, such as new cars of electrical appliances such as fridges. These items are then sprayed to rinse off excess paint.        

The CEP 4-inch membranes were tested in the Hubei Province in China. When asked about fouling, Kris Kim, head of the RO export team at CSM, told WWi that as the membrane fibres are positively charged, compared to conventional negatively charged, and as the paint is also positively charged this means they are repelled from each other.                            

Meanwhile Dow used the Shanghai show to launch its Seamaxx reverse osmosis (RO) membrane elements. The manufacturer claimed the module design has 440 square feet of active membrane surface and an interlocking technology that can help with cleaning efficiently.         

Lance Johnson, business unit director, RO water, for Dow Water & Process Solutions told WWi that the element had not been designed for typical applications, such as in the Middle East or Spain. Instead they see this being used in Chile for desalination for mining and also Northern Coastal China. Here, he says, the very low temperatures mean you need a higher pressure to “overcome the viscosity and lower temperatures”.                                  

One thing is clear: whether the Chinese market will eventually see the door closing to international suppliers, there is still as much excitement as there is caution over Asia’s manufacturing powerhouse.

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