Global Demand For Plastic Pipe To Reach 11.2 Billion Meters In 2017

June 2013, Vol. 68, No. 6
Image: The Freedonia Group, Inc.

Global demand for plastic pipe is projected to rise 8.5 percent annually through 2017 to 11.2 billion meters, improving significantly from growth posted between 2007 and 2012. Advances will come in large part from increased construction spending in all global regions, since plastic pipe is most heavily utilized in construction applications.

In addition, a rebound in the key U.S. market will spur growth. Plastic pipe will also gain market share as it continues to replace other materials, such as copper, concrete and steel, due to its low cost, installation ease and performance advantages. These and other trends are presented in World Plastic Pipe, a new study from The Freedonia Group Inc., a Cleveland-based industry market research firm.

PVC is by far the most widely used pipe resin, accounting for over 55 percent of global plastic pipe demand in 2012. Going forward, however, HDPE is expected to take market share from PVC in a variety of construction applications. For instance, as PEX becomes more common in many regional markets, the material will supplant PVC potable water distribution pipe. Additionally, fiberglass – demand for which has historically been limited because of its high price – is beginning to be utilized in a wider array of water and wastewater settings because of its performance advantages.

Demand gains in terms of weight will benefit from plastic’s increased use in larger diameter pipe. The majority of large diameter plastic pipe is used in infrastructure applications, such as potable water transmission and sewer and drainage networks. In many developed countries, decaying infrastructure will boost gains. As sewer and water transmission systems are replaced, many countries will choose plastic pipe due to its lower cost and installation ease. In developing nations, investment in local water and wastewater infrastructure will stimulate demand.

Construction related applications will provide the most impetus for growth in plastic pipe demand in all global regions. For example, recovery in the U.S. construction industry will result in double-digit gains in pipe demand. China, which maintains the world’s largest construction market, will also contribute greatly to growth.

While plastic pipe use is not as widespread in the oil and gas and process manufacturing markets, improvements in resin formulations have enabled plastic to increase its market share in recent years.