Pursuing the Best Moons, Planets, and Stars in the Valve Galaxy

The Valve Market is a USD $100 billion galaxy in an air, water, energy universe which generates revenues of USD $1 trillion for treatment of gases, liquids, and powders.

By Robert McIlvaine, Founder and CEO – The McIlvaine Company

Many stars within the galaxy have revenues of more than USD $1 billion. Each star could have ten planets generating revenues in excess of USD $100 million. Each planet could have ten moons generating annual revenues of USD $10 million.

Suppliers can benefit from mapping the universe for several reasons. The market, like the universe, is interdependent. Just as planets revolve around stars, the valve market revolves around process equipment, such as filtration and separation.

A flue gas desulphurization (FGD) supplier can choose to use limestone and require twice the number of valves than if they choose lime, as well as twice the amount of slurry. Furthermore, scaling due to gypsum formation is a challenge when using limestone. As a result, especially rugged knife gate valves are needed to control thickener flow. Clarkson, later acquired by Emerson, was an early FGD knife gate leader. ITT also gained early market share. The market for new valves and repairs for FGD thickeners and final dewatering is over USD $50 million or USD $50 per installed MW.

The advantages for suppliers to lever-age knowledge about all the process equipment are as follows:

  • More accurate long-range forecasts;
  • Forecasts for each USD $10 million niche;
  • Identification of technology needs and trends;
  • Clarification of OEM prospects and their needs;
  • Distributor collaboration; and
  • Mergers and acquisitions.

Medium Particle F&S can be identified as one example of a USD $20 billion market. This continuous filtration and separation market involves products that can be cleaned, such as centrifuges, filter presses, belt filters, clarifiers, dissolved air flotation, and similar devices. The two main goals are the purification of liquids or the recovery of solids. In both cases, the product may either be valuable or waste.

These devices are typically employed to remove particles from one to 200 µm.

Smaller particles are removed in reverse osmosis, ultrafiltration, and microfiltration systems. Particles larger than 200 µm are removed by screens and similar devices.

There is also a USD $20 billion cartridge filter market that is treated separately. Cartridges are not cleanable and therefore used when the particulate loading is low. Taste and odor can be impacted by the addition of diatomaceous earth or activated carbon. Medium-sized particles can be added to a slurry and separated later.

The filtration devices are separated by their ability to obtain dry solids, for example, in municipal wastewater treatment. Belt filter presses can increase the solids content to approximately 20%; centrifuges can increase the solids content to 30%; and filter presses can increase the solids content to a much higher level, but the choice depends on how sludges will be disposed. If the sludge is going to an incinerator, the process will be more efficient if the solids are drier.

There are two types of centrifuges: disk and decanter. Decanter centrifuges are a workhorse in wastewater treatment; however, both types are heavily used in food processing. For example, Alfa Laval and GEA are both large centrifuge manufacturers. Their primary revenue, however, comes from food and chemical processing plants in which the centrifuges play a key role.

Mineral processing is essentially a series of separation steps using centrifugal clarifiers and filters along with dryers and other process equipment. Mining is a USD $300 million market.

The medium particle F&S market is international. Some of the biggest ore producers of ores are small countries such as Chile for copper and Australia for lithium. Food processing is also distributed around the world without regard for the gross domestic product (GDP) of the countries in which the products are produced. For example, Brazil and India would be major cane sugar producers.

The market is distinguished by numerous unique applications in the food and chemical industries. Each application requires its own value proposition. A filter for chocolate, for example, is unique due to the viscosity; it must be pursued separately. Unique designs are required. Relief valves have special requirements since internal pumps are used.

Filter presses capture the product from many liquids in the chemical industry, but each is a unique application impacted by corrosion, particle characteristics, and other factors. The opportunities should be addressed separately.

The Medium Particle F&S market can be viewed as a USD $20 billion combination of stars in the filtration galaxy. It includes hundred-million-dollar planets with USD $10 million moons. Each USD $10 million moon opportunity deserves its own value proposition. For example, the filter presses for copper mining in Chile provide a unique set of factors on which decisions will be made.

The USD $20 million Medium Particle F&S market includes stars representing mining, chemicals, petrochemicals, food, oil and gas, refining, pulp and paper, pharmaceuticals, iron and steel, municipal water, and wastewater. The market for this equipment has been segmented by individual products, each of which needs to be addressed separately and has a potential different growth rate. The present market is USD $20 billion and will grow between USD $31 billion and $42 billion in 2034. The relevant valve market will range from USD $3.1 billion to $4.2 billion.

Some companies are market leaders in one or two areas. Alfa Laval and GEA are market leaders in centrifuges. GEA makes specialized valves but also buys a range of valves for its systems. Andritz is a participant in the largest number of individual product areas. It is a significant purchaser of valves for filtration as well as other process areas.

The USD $10 million niches for products in specific markets and locations must be strategically analyzed, like lunar landings. For example, to succeed in FGD in India one needs to be successful with NTPC.  The utility publishes bid requests. For example, specifications for FGD knife gate valves include specific materials and other parameters to ensure the quality meets the successful selections used in the United States and China.

For success in the municipal waste-water treatment industry in the United States, attention must be paid to the consulting engineers who, in many cases, make the decisions.

The galactic strategy depends on the details such as the equivalent of lunar landings for the smaller opportunities. A USD $1 million order may not be worth pursuing, but if it can lead to successful installations and attract larger companies, it is a profitable strategy.

Another opportunity lies in the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry, where a lemon can be turned into lemonade and the industry is using single-use centrifuges and fillers. An alternative is to supply a duplicate centrifuge or filter. One can be cleaned while the other is in operation. Therefore, either single-use or duplicate valves are needed.

Most companies are either in the Medium Particle F&S industry or they are in filtration with throwaway-type filters. Amafilter is a company that has expanded into Medium Particle F&S.

The needs in municipal wastewater treatment are changing. The amount of municipal waste that is being used for fertilizer is decreasing, whereas the amount that is being converted to biogas or is used in waste to energy plants is increasing. This puts increased emphasis on drier filtration processes, such as the filter presses.

Dredging is another growing application. In the United States, several waterways need to have the sediment re-moved. Filter presses are used to reduce contamination.

Zero liquid discharge is an emerging opportunity where a plant recycles all the water instead of discharging wastewater. This requires final dewatering and evaporation. A variety of valves are required.

Synthetic sands for hydraulic fracturing are another growing market. Natural sands were used in the United States, but it was discovered that using local sands near the fracturing sites was a better option, particularly since natural sands are running out. This opportunity is now expanded to Argentina, China, and other areas that are pursuing hydraulic fracturing. Saudi Arabia contains plenty of sand; however, a special sand is required rather than what is locally available. The cleaning process involves filters and valves.

Valves are needed to make process equipment function as designed. The Medium Particle F&S galaxy is an important part of the journey valve manufacturers should undertake.


Robert McIlvaine founded the McIlvaine Company in 1974 and oversees the work of 30 analysts and researchers. He has a BA degree from Princeton University.

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