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MIDDLE EAST PLASTIC PIPES - A REVIEW

 

The construction industry in some sectors of the Gulf has taken a hit from the current recession, however as projects are refinanced building is resuming and demand is expected to rise again for plastics pipe.  This was the conclusion at the recent AMI conference, Middle East Plastic Pipes 2009 held in Dubai in June.

 

PVC dominates the world pipe market and according to Neproplast around 40% of all PVC produced is used in pipe and fittings. PVC demand in the Middle East and Africa is expected to outstrip production in the near future.  A recent study suggested a pipe lifetime of up to 100 years. The Saudi economy showed a record surplus of US$150.6 billion in 2008, a rise of 59% compared to 2007.  The 2009 budget for the country predicts revenue of US$109.3 billion with government spending of US$126.7 billion: construction projects are expected to grow by 4% and US$9.4 billion has been allocated for water, agriculture and infrastructure projects. The population of Saudi Arabia is 60% young people, so demand is expected to grow for schools and housing.  On average the local market for PVC pipe has grown by 10% annually since 2000 and is expected to grow by 4% in 2009. The current issues in Saudi Arabia are the limited availability of raw materials, the need to produce lead-free pipes, competition with other pipe materials and some poor quality pipe in the marketplace.

 

PVC was introduced in Pakistan in 1968 and the single source is M/S Engro Polymer and Chemicals.  Shafisons Engineering described the country as conservative and only slowly adopting plastics pipe, preferring materials such as asbestos reinforced cement.  There is fierce competition between the PVC pipe producers and issues include the low standard of training for installers and a need to value quality.  There is great potential for growth as the use of PVC pipes is around 0.35 kg/person – one of the lowest per capita rates in the world. The company is pushing the use of PVC pipe in water distribution networks and also produces larger diameter sewerage pipe and PPRC pipe for hot and cold water. It works to British (BS), Pakistani (PS) and German (DIN) standards. In 2008 it produced 20 inch diameter sewer pipe for a 6.5 km installation in Karachi.

 

CPVC pipes are being used in the Middle East for applications such as desalination plants and fire sprinkler systems, according to Lubrizol Advanced Materials. The material is heat resistant to 95C, has good chemical and microbial resistance and low flammability (LOI of 60). In a fire it chars instead of burning and the char creates an additional thermal barrier.

 

Polyethylene pipe and fittings have developed to meet construction requirements according to GF Piping Systems, with diameters increasing dramatically since 1990 from 200 mm, with current Gulf production of 1600 mm pipe and up to 1200 mm fittings.    Joining technology has also advanced from socket fusion in 1960 to the latest E-couplers and fittings.  Ovality can cause issues in pipe joining, creating a gap between the pipe and the coupling particularly in larger pipes.  This can be overcome by various methods including re-rounding the pipe, for example using pneumatic operated pads to apply pressure, or contracting the coupler during the welding process.  Recent projects include the installation of 8 parallel 9 km sewer lines between Mussafah and Mafraq of 630 mm diameter.

 

There is demand for large diameter pipes for applications such as desalination plants and cooling lines for power plants. Krah AG focuses on large marine outfall pipes with sizes up to DN/ID 3400 and integrated E-Fusion joints.  On shore pre-welding of up to 500 m lengths has been achieved, with concrete ballast rings shaped to fit the pipe and slotted on at intervals. These pipe strings are then towed to the sinking site.  

 

PE offers reduced costs in terms of installation and production compared to conventional iron and steel pipe in both drinking water and gas supply. BMC Gulf focuses on HDPE pipes and fittings, and also offers welding technology and training, with certification linked to the German system.  Storage, handling and laying of plastic pipes are critical for successful installation. In the Middle East, water loss by leakage is much higher than in Europe, for example in Germany leaks account for 7.3%, in Jordan and Syria this is 45% and in Mecca it is up to 46%.  Improving quality control extensively reduces waste.

 

There are new pipe materials entering the market.  Borouge has produced new high modulus polypropylene (PP-HM) for durable sewage pipes, where the flexibility and chemical resistance of plastics makes them less likely to fail than traditional materials. PP-HM pipe has been tested for durability looking at factors such as resistance to constant deflection, notch resistance/slow crack growth, thermo-oxidative degradation and environmental stress cracking (ESCR). PP-HM has material stiffness (E-modulus) of around 1700 MPa (compared to standard PP of around 1250 MPa), so pipe wall thickness and weight can be reduced, which has led to use in non-pressure pipes in Europe. 

 

Tasnee has developed advanced multimodal PE100 resin using the Advanced Cascade Process technology developed by LyondellBasell: the aim is to provide material which is processable and with good crack propagation resistance for pressure pipes.  The new black material has Charpy impact notch strength of 26 kJ/square meter at 23C.  Total is a major player in the PE100 market worldwide: its PE100 pressure pipe compounds are specified to gas standard EN1555. PE100 RC is a new grade of PE100 with exceptional resistance to stress crack growth and extreme point loading – a requirement for non-conventional pipe installation methods such as trenchless. Hessel Ingenieurtechnik has been evaluating lifetime under these conditions. The Norm PAS 1075 for full notch creep testing in 2% Arkopal N-100 for this new compound is >8760 hours, compared to >300 hours for standard PE100.

 

Additives are critical in pipe compounding.  Cabot supplies speciality P-type carbon blacks for pressure pipes with key properties such as small particle size – less than 25 nm – which enhances UV weathering and mechanical performance.

 

Noavaran Baspar (NAB) in Iran is involved in pipe testing including failure investigations. A review of 5,000 cases concluded that 45% were due to wrong specification or poor materials, 20% manufacturing faults, 20% incorrect system design, and 15% abuse of the pipe by the consumer. There are many types of failure from crazing with microcracks, usually due to internal pressure, point loading or chemical exposure, to non-symmetric buckling from longitudinal bending.

 

The quality of tap water is influenced by the pipe material and system design and has been investigated by Uponor.  For example, surface biofilm encourages microbes such as Legionella and amoeba. Biofilm can be limited by avoiding over-dimensioning and stagnation, adjusting the hydraulics of the system, removing lines that are not in use, and using pipe materials that do not leach potential nutrients. During installation, pipes should be protected from contamination and end caps only removed immediately before use.

 

The UAE is famous for its high rise buildings and Aliaxis has studied drainage systems for this type of construction. Factors include sound resistance (to limit noise) and fire resistance, along with the need for expansion joints (to allow for thermal movement) and correctly designed bends at the base of stacks. Some types of material necessitate separate drainage stacks for the lower levels. There are also issues of pressure fluctuations leading to excessive positive or negative pressure if design is poor. Health issues also have to be considered – for example, the dry bathroom floor drains and vents in a Hong Kong high rise building were associated with the spread of SARS.

 

Cosmoplast Industrial Co. was established in 1977 in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and is among the largest companies in the region with pipe production capacity of over 70,000 tons per year, including PE, PVC, PP-R, PEX, fittings and GRP. The latest products are preinsulated pipes for district cooling and heating, as well as oil and gas applications, and reinforced thermoplastic pipe (RTP).  It has recently been conducting research into PVC deep well pipe for use up to depths of 600 m: a new well casing system in Riyadh of 400 m depth was installed in less than 14 hours.

 

Haroon Rasheed of the Abu Dhabi Sewerage Services Company (ADSSC) estimates the UAE market at one billion meters in 2012. Corrosion is a big problem in sewage pipes, so plastics such as GRP offer key advantages if installed correctly and if surge pressure is controlled.

 

Farassan Manufacturing is a leading supplier of GRP pipe based in Iran with 5 winding machines in operation and a 6th line commissioned. There is a need for quality control and the company has invested in extensive laboratory facilities for testing to standards such as ASTM D 3262, 3754 and 3517, and ISO 10467 and 10639. Long term tests include pressure, deflection, corrosion and stiffness. The pipes are used extensively in pressure and sewage applications.

 

Fibreglass pipe is used for water transport.  Future Pipe Industries has a global network of 10 manufacturing sites including the Middle East, US and Europe with its headquarters in Dubai.  The Wavistrong product has been developed for water and available in diameters of DN100 to DN2000 mm, with high temperature resistance and an epoxy base. Over 1,000 km have been supplied to date. AWWA standards specify 50 year performance.

 

Production equipment for GRP pipe is supplied by companies such as Autonational.  Mandrel breakage is a common cause of downtime, so this has been a key target of its current range, together with optimising accessibility to speed up mandrel changeover time.

 

Overall the MENA region is still a developing arena for the plastic pipe industry. The next focused networking conference, Middle East Plastic Pipes 2010, will be held from 17-19 May 2010 in Dubai and offers of papers can be sent to Dr Sally Humphreys at Applied Market Information.

Author: Dr Sally Humphreys, Email: sh@amiplastics.com
Web site for conferences: www.amiconferences.com
Tel: +44 117 924 9442