Zero-liquid discharge, which prevents any liquid waste from flowing out of a facility, can help manufacturing and power plants meet environmental standards and reduce their reliance on freshwater by allowing for water reuse.
As water costs rise and regulations become increasingly strict due to concerns over surface water contamination, this approach to wastewater treatment will grow at a 12 percent annual rate into a $2.7 billion market in 2030, Lux Research says.
While General Electric, Veolia and Aquatech International have dominated the market, “startups with emerging technologies are addressing cost and energy issues to enable even wider adoption,” said Abhirabh Basu, Lux Research Associate and lead author of the report, Assessing Opportunities in the Fast-Growing Zero Liquid Discharge Market.
“Advanced thermal system providers, innovative membrane distillation systems, and a group of emerging forward-osmosis startups promise to dramatically reduce the overall cost of running ZLD,” he added.
Lux Research compared water treatment and management technology companies, rating them on technical value, business execution and maturity. Among their findings:
- Saltworks, Memsys, Aquatech are dominant. Saltworks Technologies, Aquatech and Memsys are among the “dominant” firms on the Lux Innovation Grid, offering advanced thermal solutions. Saltworks’ low-cost systems have found traction in difficult-to-treat industrial wastewaters with oil and gas majors and mining companies.
- Membrane systems advance. Low-energy membrane systems will come from innovative “high potential” companies like Trevi Systems, Oasys Water and New Logic Research. Trevi has developed a polymer-based draw solution to separate water from wastewater across a membrane; Oasys helps convert difficult-to-treat wastewaters from coal-gasification, and oil and gas plants.
- Emerging economies drive growth. The recent boost for ZLD comes from developing countries like China and India. The world’s two most populous nations have mandated ZLD systems across industries like new coal gasification plants, thermal power plants, refineries, textiles, distilleries and pulp and paper.
ZLD technology from GE and Aquatech is helping helping coal-to-chemicals and coal-to-liquid-fuels plants in China meet these new environmental regulations by eliminating liquid discharge of waste and enabling water reuse.
And in California, ZLD systems are setting the standard for industrial-scale water conservation, according to Peter S. Cartwright, president of PE Cartwright Consulting.