Plastic pipe will continue to dominate market in years ahead

The nation’s aging water pipe network, coupled with a turnaround in building construction, will boost the annual demand for pipe by 6.3%, according to a report by the Freedonia Group, a Cleveland-based industry market research firm.

Plastic pipe will experience the fastest growth through 2016. Resin improvements that enhance performance will enable plastic pipe to continue to take market share from other pipe materials. Additionally, processing improvements will allow plastic pipe to be a more cost-effective option compared with other materials.  Polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which accounted for more than one-half of all plastic pipe demand in 2011, will remain the leading plastic resin based on PVC’s use in small diameter applications in the potable water distribution, sanitary sewer and agricultural markets, according to the report. Going forward, PVC demand will increase at a nearly double-digit rate, benefiting from the recovery in building construction activity.

High density polyethylene (HDPE) pipe was the second leading plastic pipe in 2011. Advances in HDPE pipe demand will result as the material continues to supplant concrete.

Steel pipe will continue to be the leading pipe material in value terms, accounting for $28.5 billion in 2016.  However, growth in steel pipe demand will trail the pipe market as a whole, since it is not a beneficiary of the rebound in housing construction. Nevertheless, steel will continue to dominate the oil and gas market and is expected to benefit from continued exploration and drilling activity -- especially in shale gas plays. 

Concrete, ductile iron and copper pipe are all forecast to post above-average growth. Concrete and ductile iron pipe maintain a commanding share of the large diameter sewer, drainage and water transmission market, while copper is the primary material used in refrigeration equipment.