There is eternal competition between pipe made from “traditional” materials (i.e., cast iron, concrete, copper, ductile iron, carbon and stainless steel) and pipe made from plastics (thermoplastic and thermoset). The ideal is to be able to design and develop pipe in a wide range of diameters that is light-weight yet durable, rigid or flexible, abrasion- and corrosion-resistant, and long-lived. The key as always is to offer the lowest long-term total pipe system cost (pipe units, transportation, installation and maintenance) while at the same time complying with national standards and local building and engineering codes. Recent technological changes in materials and processing methods have enhanced the ability of plastic pipe producers to satisfy these criteria.
The versatility of plastic pipe stems from the fact that this business has two distinct segments – namely, the extrusion of thermoplastics of the commodity variety (PVC, polyethylene, polypropylene and ABS) and of the engineering variety (fluoropolymers, nylon and other high-heat-resistant resins) as well as diverse processing methods to convert thermoset resins (epoxy, unsaturated polyester and vinyl ester) into composite pipe. Thermoplastic pipe is utilized in high-volume applications in myriad pipe markets – building and construction, manufacturing industries, natural gas distribution, sewer, potable water, waste water treatment, etc. Due to the nature of the materials and processing methods employed, thermoset pipe is utilized in customized low-volume applications where abrasion and corrosion resistance are critical performance parameters – for example, chemical processing and power plants.
Thermoplastic pipe is by far the largest component of this business, accounting for 9.4 billion lbs. of plastic material (96% of total plastic pipe output in volume terms) and $9.7 billion in annual sales (92% of total plastic pipe output in value terms). The volume of this business is projected to grow by 3% per annum over the period 2005-2010. Thermoset pipe, valued at $850 million as of 2005, accounted for 350 million lbs. of composite material consumption. The value of thermoset pipe is projected to double in coming years as the demand for pipe in onshore and offshore oilfields and power plants continues to surge in view of new domestic energy economics.
In this report, PCRS provide historical perspective to the evolution of the North American plastic pipe business, its current status, and prospects for future growth. They cover emerging technologies in plastic pipe materials and processing methods that are changing the nature and extent of inter-material competition. PCRS also provide profiles of selected small-, medium- and large-sized producers of thermoplastic and thermoset pipe to provide insights into their strategic planning for the future. This report is intended to provide an accurate, concise and compelling overview of the North American plastic pipe business, offering contrasts to overseas counterparts. It is an invaluable compendium of information for existing participants in this business, as well as potential new entrants.