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Toray to double production of water treatment membranes in China

Japanese company eyes country's surging demand for water purification

Toray plans to expand its operations in China, where the market for water treatment membranes is set to grow.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Japanese materials manufacturer Toray Industries will build a new plant to make water treatment membranes in China, doubling its production capacity in a country facing water shortages.

The new plant is estimated to be a 10 billion yen ($89.7 million) investment, and will be built in Foshan, Guangdong Province. It is to begin producing reverse osmosis membranes in 2021.

The high-performance membranes are in demand in China, where they are used to purify drinking water and to filter impurities from water for industrial use. Northern China in particular has suffered chronic shortages, and securing clean water is considered crucial not just for daily living but to support economic growth.

China is the world's biggest buyer of reverse osmosis membranes, which are also used for seawater desalination. It purchases about 500,000 per year, and that number is expected to grow by about 10% annually.

Toray aims to increase its market share in China to 50%, from 30%. Worldwide, it sells 600,000 reverse osmosis membranes a year, making it the No. 1 supplier.

The global market for all water treatment membranes is expected to grow to about 340 billion yen in 2025, up 60% from 2017, according to Japanese research company Fuji Keizai.

Japan experienced water and air pollution during its own period of rapid economic growth. It now wants to export the technology and expertise it developed to address those problems to developing countries.

Rival Teijin developed equipment to filter dust using ultrafine fibers. It sold more than 20,000 devices in China in 18 months.

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