US infrastructure upgrades to drive PE pipe growth

10 April 2009 17:13  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS news)--The substitution of high density polyethylene (HDPE) pipe into civil infrastructure such as drains and sewers will drive US plastic pipe demand growth in coming years, an industry analyst said on Friday.

“The civil infrastructure market is very important for the plastic pipe industry,” said Bill Weizer, vice president of plastics at Cleveland-based Freedonia Group. “Many drain, sewer and water distribution piping systems are in dire need of expansion or repair.”

HDPE is replacing cast iron, corrugated steel and concrete in water distribution and sewage systems because the resin is better at resisting leaks and corrosion and is easier to install, Weizer said.

Freedonia Group released a report earlier this week forecasting 2.3%/year average demand growth for plastic pipe during 2008-2013, reaching an estimated 4,045m feet (1,234m metres) by 2013.

Overall US pipe demand was expected to reach 11.1bn feet in 2013.

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) will remain the dominant plastic pipe material, but HDPE will have the fastest growth because of expansion opportunities in civil construction, the report said.

The forecast 4,045m feet of plastic pipe demand in 2013 represents an estimated 9.2bn lb (4.1m tonnes) of resin.

The average weight/foot of plastic pipe is expected to increase as plastic pipe continues to make inroads into larger diameters, Weizer said.

But plastic pipe makers are pursuing designs such as exterior ribbing that will use less resin but preserve strength and durability.

Weizer said the development of new resin technologies such as bimodal polyethylene (PE) will allow HDPE and other plastic pipes to grow into new applications that require greater strength and stress crack resistance.

However, he predicted that concrete pipe, with its unmatched compression resistance and 70-100 year design life, will hold its place, especially in deep pipe burial projects.

“Plastic pipe has a much shorter history of use to rely on,” Weizer said.

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By: David Barry
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