An interview with Hiroyuki Yamamura, CEO and President, Toray Membrane Europe
As you look at the competitive landscape in membrane-based water and wastewater treatment, what do you feel are the notable differentiators for Toray?
On the technical side, we are proud of our Toray Membrane Research & Development Centre, employing the best industry talent and experienced specialists and continuously developing a range of new membrane products for ample applications and with the best performance. Toray has the capability to develop and provide the best membrane products in the industry, both for today and the future.
On the commercial side, we have emerged as a global leader thanks to our Global Sales Team (GST) comprising the best senior technical and commercial experts from all parts of the world. The Toray GST is backed up by strategically located regional offices and representatives in many countries to support customers (OEMs) in each area in a competent and fast track manner and with deep local understanding and knowledge. We see our technical service capability as an important and positive competitive differentiator while working with global customers.
What are the key projects that Toray is justifiably proud of in the Europe, Middle East & Africa (EME&A) region?
Toray has supplied Reverse Osmosis (RO) membrane elements, technical design support and hands-on consulting all the way to commissioning and ongoing operation for significant projects in the vast and diverse EME&A region.
In Sea Water Reverse Osmosis (SWRO) applications, there are more than 10 plants using Toray RO membrane elements with capacities exceeding 100,000 m3/day, including Magtaa (Algeria, 500,000 m3/day), Al Dur (Bahrain, 220,000 m3/day), Hamma (Algeria, 200,000 m3/day), Shuaibah (KSA, 150,000 m3/day), Fujairah 2 (UAE, 140,000 m3/day).
For Brackish Water Reverse Osmosis (BWRO) membrane products including wastewater reclamation applications, the largest one is the Sulaibiya wastewater reclamation plant (Kuwait, 320,000 m3/day), while in Saudi Arabia, Toray RO elements are also widely used with great success in projects like Ar-Rass (36,000 m3/day) and Al-Bukariyah (36,000 m3/day).
As for new projects, a recent win is the considerably large Tuaspring Desalination Plant in Singapore (320,000 m3/day). We are in line to announce a series of new projects awarded across the EMEA region in the very near future.
On the R&D front, could you share with us some of the technology breakthroughs achieved by Toray recently? How has the company retained its innovation edge while continuing to grow?
In response to our regional market intelligence from Toray Membrane Europe in Basel, which is the regional office for EME&A, the Toray Membrane Research & Development Centre in Japan has been successful in further advancing a series of technology developments.
The new Toray membrane line up includes a number of high rejection and high permeability SWRO membrane elements for large scale projects as well as high permeability and low operating pressure BWRO elements, that have set industry benchmarks and offer the most tailored-to-application range of choice in the industry today.
Only a few months into their launch in the market, the new Toray line up of RO membrane elements has already won the acceptance of key customers and operators due to their technical performance and technical support by Toray at all stages of a project, including replacements.
From treatment efficiency and cost standpoints, where do membranes stand today in desalination and wastewater treatment?
If we take ‘efficiency’ to be the ratio at which we can obtain fresh water from seawater, Toray has been dramatically improving its technology and that development has been widely recognised in the industry.
The general advantage of RO membrane technology is that it is very mild on the environment because applied RO membrane technology does not lead to phase separation. The feed water can be transferred in its composite status only, for example, from seawater to fresh water.
RO membrane products by Toray are a leading edge, benchmark technology, which help provide treated water with lowest cost in the fields of desalination and wastewater reclamation.
Could you elaborate on your priorities for 2012 in terms of business growth? In your opinion, what are the market segments and the countries within EME&A that will drive this growth?
Many of Toray’s key customers and OEMs are based in Europe, and we are growing ever closer. We have partnered them in their international and global ambitions and have achieved a successful track record in that regard.
With gradual recovery of the economic outlook on the backdrop of urgent demand and requirement for Toray RO membrane products to help ensure reliable supply of water in the region, our operative focus will span all of North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and beyond, covering SWRO, BWRO, MBR and other water treatment projects, leveraging our ability to provide cutting edge quality products based on innovative technology and a sizeable manufacturing capacity which can serve the most ambitious timelines and project sizes.
(Interview by Anoop K Menon)