The U.S. Market for Plastic Pipe
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The total plastic pipe and tubing in the U.S. was more than 9 billion pounds in 2011 and is projected to reach nearly 10 billion pounds in 2016, a CAGR of 2%.
The building and construction segment by far accounts for most of the market, totaling 6.4 billion pounds in 2011. This segment is expected to increase at a 2% CAGR and reach more than 7 billion pounds in 2016.
The electrical and communications segment accounts for the next largest share of the market, totaling 1 billion pounds in 2011. Increasing at a CAGR of 1.8%, this segment should total 1.1 billion pounds by 2016.
U.S. MARKET ESTIMATE FOR PLASTIC PIPE/TUBING BY APPLICATIONS,
2011 AND 2016 (MILLIONS OF POUNDS)
Source: BCC Research
Piping and tubing (P/T, with the term tubing used to describe small diameter pipe; it is also often flexible), and the U.S. industries that fabricate and install these materials, seemingly are rather prosaic businesses, something that most people take more or less for granted as part of civilized life. After all, pipes and tubes transport water to our houses and businesses and carry away our liquid wastes. They also transport virtually all liquid and gaseous products over short distances (such as a milk transfer line in a dairy) or long ones (such as a transcontinental petroleum products pipeline). Most individuals would not consider a water transmission or sewer line as particularly high tech.
However, the piping industry is quite sophisticated and newer materials, especially the plastics covered in this study, are especially so. Not only are new materials and technologies coming into use to compete with older ones, but P/T is used in a number of industries in which fluid transport is not involved. These include the electrical and electronics industry's use for conduits and other means of carrying conductors and other wires. Mechanical tubing is used for furniture and light poles. There is piping and tubing that merely moves the same fluid through a closed loop, for example, in refrigeration and air conditioning systems and in hot water heating systems.
Since humankind first learned to transport fluids through hollow tubes, piping and tubing have become important parts of modern technology and lifestyles. Over the years, many different materials have been and continue to be used for pipe and tubing. These include metals like iron, steel, copper and aluminum; inorganic materials like clay and concrete; and plastics, the subject of this report.
This is a new study, but it takes much of its background from older BCC Research studies and reports on piping and tubing. In this study, we focus on U.S. applications and markets for plastic pipe, and our market analyses, estimates and forecasts are all on plastic pipe. For background and comparison, we include some history, technology and applications for other piping materials, since most of them compete directly with plastic pipe in important applications such as residential water and drainage lines and longer distance sewers and petroleum products pipelines.
The competition is more intense these days, with the current and rather poor economic situation and outlook for pipe markets in the U.S. (and also much of the industrialized western world). Many major cities still are suffering from commercial vacancy rates of 20% or more, and new construction often must wait until this backlog of space is occupied, modified for another use or razed/abandoned. There was a recent commercial and residential building boom that lasted several years, spurred by rising real estate and housing prices, all of which collapsed in 2008 with the housing “bubble” that led the U.S. into the “great recession” that we are only now starting to inch our way out of.
Consolidation, restructuring and retrenchment in the plastics manufacturing and other industries also have adversely affected the P/T industries in recent years. To be sure, manufacturing plant modernization and modification requires piping and tubing, but it is not equal to the amount required to build an entirely new plant that replaces an older facility. These situations also change, for example, in petrochemical plants. U.S. plants were closed and operations moved to cheaper locations like China, until the recent boom in shale gas production led to such a low drop in the price of U.S. natural gas that this country is again a low-cost petrochemicals producer. Old mothballed plants are being restarted here, and new ones are now under construction.
Major industrial users like chemicals and petroleum manufacturers have suffered from lower demands and resulting overcapacity as well as low margins. Until the economy picks up at a faster pace, BCC Research believes the P/T industry will continue to stay in a somewhat depressed state, at least when compared with previous growth rates. Plastic pipe and tubing, products that are used in common commercial and residential construction and products, usually grow (or don't grow) at about the same rate as the overall U.S. Growth Domestic Product (GDP). Current GDP rates and near-term projections are not very high, which means corresponding lower growth in plastic pipe and tubing.
The fight for markets, coupled with ongoing technical improvements in newer piping materials, has, if anything, increased an already very competitive situation. Newer, competing materials are primarily plastics, many of which are cheaper, lighter and better able to withstand environmental attacks such as corrosion. In addition, these materials are easier to install and maintain. This gives plastic pipe several advantages over other materials, and is a primary reason for concentrating on plastic pipe in this study and report.
It is the goal of this report to give readers a comprehensive update on the state of the U.S. plastic pipe industry, and where BCC research believes it is headed (with market estimates and forecasts through 2016).
This study primarily focuses on the U.S. It is concerned with estimates for the U.S. plastic pipe and tubing market based on products produced by domestic pipe and tubing fabricators. However, as noted above in the report's objectives, the business has some international implications, given the current global nature of business and trade when no nation or region can operate without considering the rest of the world.
BCC Research performed this study to provide a comprehensive and updated reference for those interested and/or involved with the U.S. plastic pipe and tubing industries and that both serve and benefit from these industries. This is a wide and varied group of personnel in the chemicals, polymer, mechanical equipment and parts companies, both for original P/T manufacture (OEM) and maintenance/ replacement parts. BCC Research sorted through, organized and condensed information from a large amount of literature and other reference materials to compile this report.
Some quite significant, but more evolutionary and revolutionary changes have taken place in the past generation or so. These continue to take place today and probably will do so for the foreseeable future, as new materials compete for positioning in a mature market. Intermaterial competition is a way of life in a technologically advanced society, but few industries have so many different competing materials. These range from old standbys like clay and concrete to newer high-tech plastics.
Complicating the situation are the technical and political factors of local building codes. They either can advance or hinder growth of a particular type of pipe in any one of several different types of service. P/T developers and producers must be aware of these factors as well as the activities of their competitors, both in their own materials and in other materials and processes. A good recurring example that directly affects this study comes from the building trade unions, especially plumbers, who, in several jurisdictions, successfully have slowed or even prevented the use of cheaper and often better plastic piping in residential and commercial structures.
This study provides in depth coverage of many of the most important economic, technological, political, regulatory and environmental considerations involving domestic markets for U.S. production and use of materials and equipment in the plastic pipe and tubing industries. Pipes and tubes are made from materials ranging from inorganic clays and concrete to iron and steel, and to commodity and specialty polymers. This study focuses on plastic pipe and tubing, with reference in many places to older competing materials.
This report includes key technologies (and new technologies), the markets and some key companies that make up the U.S. plastic pipe and tubing industry and all its ramifications. This primarily is a study of U.S. activities and markets, but because of the global nature of most industries, it touches on some noteworthy international activities. These primarily are those that could have an impact on domestic business and markets and include actions by foreign-based companies in U.S. markets and the effects of imports.
Demands are estimated for the base year of 2011, and forecast for five years through 2016. All market volume figures usually are rounded to the nearest million pounds. All five-year growth rates are compounded (signified as compounded annual growth rates or CAGRs). Because of this rounding, some growth rates may not agree exactly with figures in the market tables, especially for differences in small volumes.
This report in segmented into 10 chapters, with this being the first.
The summary encapsulates findings and conclusions, and includes summary major market tables. It is where a busy executive can find the study's key findings in a condensed format.
This is followed by an overview of the plastic piping and tubing industry. It begins with a historical perspective, then defines and describes the major materials used in pipe and tubing, discusses factors such as regional distribution and the importance of P/T to the U.S. economy, and introduces the major markets, primarily in building and other construction.
Next is the first of the market analysis sections, this one devoted to analysis by the particular plastic resins used in pipe or tubing, with breakdown sections for each resin and its primary market applications.
In the next section, the market analysis is turned on its side, so to speak. It examines and estimates plastic P/T markets according to applications and end uses in a number of areas including building/construction (covering uses ranging from water transmission to sewers and storm drain pipes); petroleum service pipe (both “upstream” and “downstream”); machinery, process and other equipment; electronics and telecommunications; mechanical and structural uses; and specialty and other uses.
The next section discusses technology, with portions devoted to the manufacture and technology for each major piping material, including brief elaborations for older materials that compete with plastics. Several important and more recent technological developments for the use of plastic pipe are noted, especially for trenchless technology and the use of pipe linings for repair, instead of replacement of leaking or otherwise worn-out piping.
The study then looks at the structure, competitive factors and trends in the U.S. pipe industry. Major emphasis is given to competition between piping materials, a major factor is this industry.
In the next section, there is a discussion of environmental and regulatory factors that affect the P/T industry. The main thrust of this portion focuses on the impact of regulatory and environmental issues on pipe markets, especially those for plastic pipe.
The final narrative section is devoted to information about U.S. suppliers to this large industry, with profiles of some of the leading companies.
Finally, there is an appendix with a glossary of important terms, abbreviations, acronyms, etc. used in the pipe industry and related technologies.
J. Charles Forman has an SB degree from MIT and MS and Ph.D. degrees from Northwestern University, all in chemical engineering. Forman worked for Abbott Laboratories for 20 years, was executive director of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers for 10 years and since 1987, has been an independent technical writer and researcher, authoring many single- and multi-client reports, 44 alone for BCC Research.