Global demand for plastic pipes will increase 8.5% pa to 2017, spurred by a rebound in demand in the US market. Demand is forecast to rise 6.2% pa through 2017 to 23 mln metric tons, reaching 11.2 bln metres by 2017. This is a significant improvement from growth recorded between 2007 and 2012 when global demand increased only 2.4%, according to a report from Freedonia.Construction related pipe applications will offer the most impetus for growth across the board. In particular, a recovering US construction industry will drive demand gains. Plastic pipe will continue to supplant competing materials (e.g., steel, copper, ductile iron) in many construction applications due to its low cost, installation ease and performance advantages. Recovery in the US construction market will boost an annual increase in US demand of 9.8% until 2017, compared to a decrease of 7.1% between 2007 and 2012. Similarly, Western Europe, which saw a decrease in demand over the past six years, will see demand grow 5% to 2017. Asia will see demand increase 9.7%, slightly down from 11% between 2007 and 2012.
PVC is the most common resin used in pipes, accounting for more than 55% of demand in 2012. However, high density polyethylene (HDPE) will take market share from PVC in many construction applications moving forward. Going forward, however, HDPE is expected to take market share away from PVC in potable water distribution applications as cross linked polyethylene (PEX) becomes more common in many regional markets. In addition, demand for fiberglass, which has historically been limited based on its high price, is beginning to be used in a wider array of water and wastewater settings.
Demand gains in terms of weight will benefit from plastics’ increased acceptance in larger diameters. The majority of large diameter plastic pipe is found in infrastructure applications, such as potable water transmission and sewer and drainage networks. In many developed countries, decaying infrastructures will drive sales gains. As replacement activity picks up, many countries will utilize plastic pipe primarily because of its lower costs and ease of installation. Among developing nations, investment in establishing local water and wastewater infrastructures will stimulate demand. While plastic is not as widely utilized in the oil and gas market, improvements in resin formulations have enabled plastic (particularly HDPE and fiberglass) to increase its market share in recent years. In process manufacturing applications, HDPE’s greater flexibility has resulted in its increased usage. Fiberglass is utilized in the process manufacturing market when particularly hazardous materials are present. Going forward, demand is expected to benefit from gains in manufacturing output and growth in crude oil and natural gas production and consumption, including increases in exploratory, well drilling and pipeline construction activity. North America and Asia/Pacific will see above average growth of around 9.8% respectively 9.7%. The study supports its strong growth spurt by looking at two critical regions: recovery in the US construction industry resulting in nearly double-digit gains in pipe demands, and China, which should continue to maintain the world’s largest construction market. Another important trend shows plastic pipe gaining market share as it continues to replace other materials, due to its low cost, installation ease, and performance advantages.