Japanese companies have great presence in the water treatment membrane business with a share of about 60% in the world market. The two leaders are Nitto Denko (32%) and Toray (27%). In recent years, however, Chinese companies chase Japanese companies at a rapid pace, underselling Japanese products by 30-50%. With the help of academic-industrial alliance, the Chinese government is facilitating domestic production of water treatment membranes. In view of the future growth in the Chinese market, Toray built a plant with a Chinese company on a joint venture basis in Beijing for the integrated mass production of reverse osmosis membranes with an investment of 7.5 billion yen. With the completion of this plant, Toray’s production capacity of reverse osmosis membranes increased to 1.5 times.
Korea is also chasing. It will invest about 19 billion yen between 2007 and 2012 to substantiate the state-of-the-art membrane treatment technology. Germany will subsidize the research on water treatment membrane with a huge investment. To cope successfully with these companies, Japan has already started projects to advance the membrane treatment technology to the next stage.
The Meta-ton Water System is participated by a total of 27 companies and universities including Toray and Tokyo University. This project aims to establish a seawater desalination system with a daily capacity of 10 million tons, two times bigger capacity of the current world’s largest seawater desalination plant in Algeria being constructed by Hyflux of Korea. With a subsidy of about 3 billion yen from the government, the Japanese project is trying to halve the desalination cost by dint of osmotic power that uses condenses seawater, a by-product of desalination. The research team is trying hard to establish a system that is highest in performance and lowest in desalination cost. The world water market is estimated at 86 trillion yen in 2025. The competition will grow intense continuously. (To be continued)