InterviewUS Dow expects 12-15% annual growth from water business

13 October 2009 21:58  [Source: ICIS news]

NEW YORK (ICIS news)--US-based Dow Chemical aims to grow its Dow Water & Process Solutions unit by around 12-15% per year, the head of the business said on Tuesday.

“We’ve seen average annual growth of 12-15% for our water business in the last decade, and we expect this level of organic growth going forward,” said Ian Barbour, general manager of Dow Water & Process Solutions, in an interview with ICIS.

“We are also looking out for acquisitions, especially of new technologies that can drive down the cost of water purification,” he added.

Barbour spoke at the launch of the Dow Live Earth Run for Water event in New York City, which is aimed at combating the global water crisis through raising awareness and funding for water projects worldwide.

One of Dow’s sustainability goals is to drive a 35% reduction in the cost of water reuse and desalination by 2015 through component technology advances.

Dow's water business unit has just under $1bn (€680m) in annual sales, said Barbour. The business produces reverse osmosis filtration membranes, ion-exchange resins and electro-deionization products to remove contaminants and impurities from water.

The continuing construction of desalination plants worldwide is a major driver of growth, said Barbour.

“As we’ve gone down the cost curve of supplying membranes [for filtration], these methods have increasingly been deployed. Australia is building huge desalination plants, as well as Israel with its Ashkelon facility,” he noted.

Israel’s Ashkelon desalination plant is the largest in the world using the reverse osmosis method, which uses polymer membranes to produce clean water from sea water.

The market in which Dow Water & Process Solutions competes, which includes membranes, resins, carbon media, pumps and valves, is valued at around $40bn-45bn, compared with $400bn-440bn for the entire water market, according to Barbour.

“We are focused on chemistry and polymer science for purification,” he said.

The Dow Live Earth Run for Water event is scheduled to take place on 18 April 2010 in around 20 cities worldwide, including New York, Los Angeles, Buenos Aires, London, Singapore City, Rio de Janeiro and Stockholm. The run/walk will be 6km, representing the average distance many women and children walk every day to secure water, Dow said.

The launch of the initiative, bolstered by speeches from celebrities such as actress Jessica Biel, musicians Pete Wentz and Angelique Kidjo, water advocate Alexandra Cousteau and elite runner and athlete Jenny Fletcher, draws attention to the chemical industry being part of the solution to crucial world issues, Barbour said.

“Sometimes we’re too defensive in the chemical industry. Here is a fantastic opportunity to show what chemistry can do in tackling a critical world issue,” Barbour said.

“Responsible corporate citizens like Dow make events and movements like this possible. They have committed to making changes in their business to positively affect communities and citizens around the world,” said Biel.

Around 1bn people worldwide, or one-eighth of the population, have no access to clean, safe drinking water, noted Barbour.

Non-governmental organisation partners in the Dow Live Earth Run initiative include Live Earth, Global Water Challenge, A Child's Right, Akvo, Fondo Para La Paz, Indonesia Water Partnership, Lien Aid, Pump Aid and Wildlands Conservation Trust.

($1 = €0.68)

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By: Joseph Chang
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