Around the world, the desalination market is still growing

According to new data released by the International Desalination Association (IDA) and Global Water Intelligence (GWI) as of June 30th in the , the global desalination market is still growing, marking the fourth year of continued growth following a slowdown in the middle of the 2000s.

Cumulative global contracted capacity, including plants that have been contracted or are under construction, hit 99.8 million m³ per day in 2017, an increase from the 95.6 million m³ per day seen in 2016.  This represents a rise in cumulative global contracted capacity of 14 per cent, or 282,000 m³ a day, from mid-2016 to mid-2017. This growth was seen in both the utility sector – primarily due to new awards in the Gulf, and the industrial sector, where the stabilisation of oil and gas prices has led to new upstream and downstream projects.

The cumulative global installed capacity is now at 92.5 million m³ a day. This compares with 88.6 million m³ per day in 2016.

The total number of desalination plants worldwide across all categories stands at 19,372 in 2017 against the 18,983 (2016).


Major Feedwater Types
Desalination of seawater and brackish water are the two major types of desalination projects, with seawater desalination experiencing its largest increase since 2014, driven largely by growth in the utility market in the Gulf, which is likely to retain the largest share of contracted seawater capacity for the foreseeable future. In addition, significant awards for seawater desalination plants were also made in China, Singapore, and Morocco during the past year.

Desalination of brackish water is also growing, with an increase of 29 per cent in contracted capacity for the first half of 2017. The typical brackish water desalination plant is for smaller utilities and industrial users. China accounted for a large portion of growth in these plants, especially during the second half of 2016.


Geographic Trends
Large-scale projects around the Red Sea and Gulf account for much of the current recovery in the desalination market. However, the nature of these mostly large-scale projects means that this region experiences highly variable swings in contracted capacity. A steadier source of contracts can be found in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, where industrial projects dominate the reference list. Midway through 2017, these two regions found themselves almost on equal ground in terms of contracted capacity.


Utility versus Industrial Users
Both utility and industrial projects saw a double-digit increase in capacity through 2016, driven by awards for industrial users in the latter part of the year. For the first half of 2017, new utility capacity went down while industrial capacity increased, due to the volume and size of utility awards in the Gulf during the first half of 2016 and the presence of several extra-large references for refining and petrochemical customers in the first half of 2017. A closer look at the industrial sector reveals many interesting developments in the upstream oil and gas industry including several projects that may point to the future shape of the market in the offshore oil industry.


Technology Type
Membrane technologies continue to dominate the desalination market. For example, in 2017 membrane technology accounted for 2.2 million m³ per day of annual contracted capacity while thermal processes accounted for just 0.1 million m³ a day during the same period.