Pressing Need for Effective Fresh Water Conservation Drives Adoption of Zero Liquid Discharge Method of Wastewater Treatment
According to the United Nations (UN) water report, out of the total water available on the earth’s surface, only 3% is fresh water. Out of this, 69% resides in glaciers, 30% underground, and mere 1% is located in lakes, rivers, and swamps. Given the significantly diminishing availability of fresh water and unprecedentedly rising water pollution further worsening the issue, the need for effective water conservation is repeatedly getting the spotlight over the past few decades. Several environmental agencies and government authorities have imposed regulations in order to reduce water pollution and promote water conservation.
Besides recycling, wastewater treatment eases the burden on key freshwater sources to some extent and promotes the use of treated waste water for non-potable applications. The wastewater treatment industry consists of a number of treatment solutions such as sewage treatment plants (STP), effluent treatment plants (ETP), zero liquid discharge (ZLD), and wastewater treatment plants (WTP). Zero liquid discharge is one of the most sought-after wastewater treatment methods as it includes reverse osmosis, ultrafiltration, crystallization/evaporation, and fractional electrode ionization, leaving zero discharge of water at the end of the treatment cycle.
Energy & power industry sectors hold prominent shares in the global zero liquid discharge market in terms of consumption. While this is owing to high ZLD adoption in line with implementation of rigid environmental regulations on wastewater discharge, the energy & power industry, along with chemical & petrochemical industries, holds more than 65% share in global ZLD market valuation. The latter reportedly held a major share in market till 2019.
ZLD Market to Benefit from Stringent Regulations Set for Wastewater Treatment and Disposal
The global industrial wastewater treatment industry is expanding at a rapid pace and a large amount of wastewater is generated from industrialization and municipal sewages. Alarming rate of industrial pollution compel environmental regulatory boards to set certain norms and regulations for wastewater treatment and standards for effluent discharge. Thus, it has become imperative for companies to have operating treatment plants so as to meet stringent environmental standards. With regulatory screws tightening, zero liquid discharge is highly likely to remain in demand within the wastewater treatment industry during the forecast period.
The awareness regarding proper and effective treatment and disposal of wastewater effluents has been notably increased over the recent past. Regulatory bodies governing wastewater discharge limits in various countries across the globe have been setting and implementing stringent policies and guidelines for industrial plants to meet zero liquid discharge norms in order to attenuate water quality issues in their countries. This has been strongly driving the growth of zero liquid discharge market as manufacturing sites and municipal bodies also strive to meet the obligatory norms and legislations. For instance, ZLD mandates set by the EU Water Framework Directive, and the Effluent Limitation Guidelines (ELGs) set by the Environment Protection Agency in the US (EPA).
Cost and Space Constraints Continue to Restrict Application Potential of ZLD
A majority of zero liquid discharge processes are based on thermal processing that consists of the energy-intensive evaporation process. The process is used to recover reusable water from wastewater streams. The usage of custom-designed zero liquid discharge plants built according to end-use requirements entails substantial operating and capital costs. The cost and efforts linked with the management and handling of solid waste generated at the end of the treatment are still playing out as an impediment to broader adoption of these units across industries. Space constraint is another major factor posing a limitation to installation of zero liquid discharge plants. The recovery cost of zero liquid discharge plants is significantly high, which currently makes it a feasible alternative for only a limited chunk of industrial players.
Asia Pacific Holds Lion’s Share till 2025
Till 2019, Asia Pacific has been a significant regional market for players in global zero liquid discharge landscape, which is clearly attributable to scarcity of fresh water sources in the region and growing implementation of strict environmental policies regarding wastewater. Market share of the region is projected to increase significantly due to the growth in chemical and energy & power industries in fast-developing countries such as China and India. Governments of these countries are increasingly particular about industries setting up ZLD systems for wastewater treatment, which is a strong factor driving zero liquid discharge market growth in Asia Pacific.
From demand side, both North America and Europe are matured markets as they have had an established framework of strict environmental laws and regulations towards curbing water pollution. In the US, the Clean Water Act prohibits any entity from discharging pollutants through a point source without the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. In these regions, Environmental authorities in the region have enacted strict laws and regulations to curb pollution. Thus, it is mandatory for the energy & power industry to treat wastewater and establish in-house wastewater treatment plants. In the US, the NPDES permit programme controls water pollution by regulating point sources that discharge pollutants into water bodies. This permit mandates industries to implement ZLD system installation, which provides an impetus to zero liquid discharge market. The Middle East & Africa and Latin America are also expected to develop lucrative markets for ZLD during the forecast period.
Zero Liquid Discharge Market: Competitive Landscape
Key players involved in zero liquid discharge market include Veolia, ALFA LAVAL, GEA Group Aktiengesellschaft, SUEZ, Thermax Limited, Praj Industries, Aquatech International LLC, and Oasys Water.
Recently in April 2021, Praj Industries has bagged an order from Godavari Biorefineries Ltd (GBL, Karnataka, India) to set up a syrup-based ethanol plant with the largest capacity in India. As a part of this project, the for will expand its existing ethanol manufacturing capacity of GBL to 600 kilo litres per day, using sugarcane syrup. The expansion capacity at GBL will continue to be a zero liquid discharge facility.
Earlier in July 2018, GEA Group Aktiengesellschaft supplied a ZLD plant to Mexico-based Abengoa. The ZLD plant is used to convert salt-laden wastewater into pure water for internal recycling and dry solids for disposal. The company had offered thermal and non-thermal technologies for ZLD applications such as centrifugal separators, membrane concentrators, evaporators, crystallizers, and dryers.