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Pump market enters ‘lean and green’ phase

01 May 2010

The pumps market in Europe has grown consistently, riding on high oil prices and a booming downstream process industry. However, with the onset of the economic crisis towards the end of 2008, the demand for pumps witnessed marginal decline in certain end-user industries, where projects were delayed or postponed due to the credit crunch. Ram Ravi offers this market outlook

With Europe’s major economies sinking into recession, industrial production in the region declined throughout 2008 and 2009. Among the various process industries, the chemical industry and its sub-sectors were worst hit. With customers’ spending confidence correspondingly low, this trend is expected to continue into 2010. As a result, major pump suppliers have seen orders go down by nearly 30%. However, there are still growth opportunities, particularly in the water and power sectors as many European governments direct their stimulus packages towards infrastructure renewal and development.

The increase in demand for pumps from the water and wastewater sector is attributed to the rising need for clean drinking water and proper sanitation in drought-affected regions such as Iberia, the United Kingdom and Italy. In addition, government regulations focused on improving standards and efficiency, prompting upgrades to existing water and wastewater plants, especially in Eastern Europe.

Some key application areas offering opportunities are desalination and reverse osmosis. Although desalination is considered a high growth sub-sector, reverse osmosis is gaining prominence during the recession due to its comparatively low cost of production.

In the power generation industry, the target of reaching higher energy output levels by 2012 is expected to drive demand for pumps both in terms of new equipment sales and upgrades. Moreover, enhanced focus on third-generation fuels production offers long-term growth opportunities for the sector. Currently, Western Europe leads the pump services market. However, with new entrants such as Romania and Bulgaria, Eastern Europe is rapidly developing and attracting more foreign investments across various end users.

Trends for specific pump types
Life cycle costing and energy efficiency are key factors suppliers must stress on to sustain in this market during the recession. As customers strive to cut production costs, focus has shifted from initial product cost to total life cycle costs. This, coupled with increasing energy prices, is boosting the adoption of energy-efficient pumps and systems.
The trend is expected to enhance growth prospects for peristaltic pumps among the various positive displacement pump types as it offers relatively better life cycle advantage to customers. Similarly, rotary lobe pumps are highly preferred for hygienic applications due to minimal contamination of the medium being pumped. Meanwhile, applications involving multiphase pumping are expected to drive demand for screw and progressing cavity pumps.

Progressing cavity and screw pumps are likely to replace centrifugal pumps purely on the basis of energy efficiency. Nonetheless, barring certain applications, centrifugal pumps still hold a major share of the total market.

Customer expectations
Given the current economic conditions, factors such as supply chain, product portfolio, lead times, service network and regional presence are crucial to growth in a bottoming market. Although there is a greater inclination towards upgrades and maintenance, customers do not seem to be in favour of stocking products. This leaves suppliers to focus on ready availability of products and minimising lead times.

Extensive sales and service networks across the region will cater to this need, but in the short term, suppliers must focus on enhancing product and service portfolios through the addition of intelligent pumps, energy-efficient products and strategic services that enhance sustainability in this market.

Ram Ravi is a research analyst with the Frost & Sullivan European Industrial Process Control and Automation practice

Looking across the pond from Europe towards the USA, it is interesting to note how the water industry is catching on to the benefits of peristaltic pumps. The City of Eagan in North Minnesota, for example, chose peristaltic units for sodium hypochlorite (‘hypo’) dosing at one of its newer wastewater treatment plants. Hypo is a challenging product in that it tends to off-gas during pumping, causing some pumps (particularly diaphragm types) to vapour lock.
Ten Verderflex VF10 peristaltic hose pumps, each capable of flow rates up to 48 US gallons/hour, are now operational at the plant (see illustration). Key features of the peristaltic pump that decided their use in this application include easy maintenance, proven reliability and exceptional hose life.
The nature of the peristaltic pumping process means that only the hose comes into contact with the pumped fluid, ensuring hygienic and leak free operation. There are also no moving parts to become clogged or damaged, and the only maintenance required is to change the hose, which can be achieved quickly and efficiently.Peristaltic pumps are also suitable for dosing wastewater pH regulators such as lime and Kalkmilch, as well as ferric and shear-sensitive polymer additives that are used to remove peat, suspended solids and residual colours from clean water streams.

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