Industrial water solutions sector 'ripe for tapping'

SINGAPORE - Singapore plans to get its water companies to tap into the fast-growing industrial water solutions sector for new business opportunities.

Some are already doing so by providing ultra-pure water and treatment to the pharmaceutical, chemical or oil and gas industries.

"The industrial water solutions market is growing at a rate much faster than the municipal water solutions market," said Mr Goh Chee Kiong, director for cluster development at the national multi-agency Environment & Water Industry Programme Office.

The former is expanding by 10 per cent a year, while the latter is growing by 4 per cent a year.

In particular, the Government is urging water firms to develop technologies to improve industrial water efficiency. Factories and other non-domestic water consumers account for 55 per cent of Singapore's water use. This fraction is expected to rise to 70 per cent by 2060, Mr Goh pointed out.

Improving water efficiency would help to reduce water wastage and help companies save money and energy.

For instance, membrane firm memsys has a project that uses waste heat from Senoko Power Plant to produce very pure water, which is fed to the plant to cool boilers or for other uses.

Besides selling technology and services to local electronics, chemicals and pharmaceutical industries, water firms here could also offer their wares to the region's mining, agriculture, power generation and oil and gas industries. Local water company Mattenplant builds small, stand-alone water treatment systems that can be used by remote oil rigs, for instance.

Air and water treatment firm Envipure works with major contractors which buy its treatment technology for overseas projects.

Envipure chief executive Vincent Wong said the company ventured into the water industry about four years ago, adding that the industrial sector was easier to break into in many countries than the municipal water sector.

Since 2006, when Singapore began a national push into water technologies, the water industry here has grown at 13 per cent a year on average, Mr Goh said.

In 2011, it contributed $1.4 billion to the economy and employed 12,400 people, up from $500 million and about 5,500 jobs in 2003. By 2015, it is expected to contribute $1.7 billion.

Mr Goh did not give figures or set targets beyond 2015, but said the industry's growth rate would be "above the national growth rate".

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