Shipments of textiles, membranes, grids and liners for containing or separating soils or materials grew 7 percent last year to 627.8 million square yards, according to a new market report on the geosynthetics industry. Less than 1 million square yards of geosynthetics were produced in 1970.
``Most applications grew moderately, but market and production factors slowed growth for geotextiles,'' said Alex Strzetelski, market research director for the Industrial Fabrics Association International. ``We see growth of 7.5 percent this year.''
Geotechnical engineers specify the synthetic materials for sub-soil applications, typically for stabilization and environmental reasons.
During 1995, primary geomembrane producers realigned their operations and, in dealing with material-related structural problems, withdrew very low density polyethylene from this application.
``Polypropylene will be one of the beneficiaries,'' Strzetelski said, ``not only because of VLDPE's exodus but because PP is beginning to take share from other materials,'' particularly high density PE.
Gundle Environmental Systems Inc. and SLT Environmental Inc. combined last year to form GSE Lining Technology Inc. of Houston, the geomembrane market leader. Other large geomembrane producers include National Seal Co. of Aurora, Ill., and Poly-Flex Inc. of Grand Prairie, Texas. Thirteen producers made 74.7 million square yards.
Specialty products in laminated or composite forms grew 13 percent last year to 20 million square yards. The niche products are used largely for pavement edge drains, foundations and wall or slope drains.
During 1995, geotextiles - the large category of permeable textiles - were in oversupply and faced high resin and fiber prices.
``Many manufacturers ran their production lines on an as-needed basis,'' Strzetelski said. ``Most feel this oversupply should stabilize in the second or third quarter of 1996.''
Sixteen manufacturers produced 414 million square yards of geotextiles last year.
``Many within the industry have placed capacity utilization of geotextile manufacturers in the low-to mid-70 percent range,'' he said, ``and indicate that it will be several years before it can reach the low-80 percent range.''
Geotextile producers include Amoco Corp.'s Fabrics & Fibers unit in Atlanta; Nicolon Mirafi Group of Norcross, Ga.; Synthetic Industries' construction products division of Chattanooga, Tenn., and Linq Industrial Fabrics of Summerville, S.C.
Erosion control products accounted for 87 million square yards of 1995 shipments. Par-ticular growth occurred in Latin America and other regions with marginal or mountainous terrain. In other categories, geogrids accounted for 26.8 million square yards, and geosynthetic clay liners, 6 million square yards.
IFAI, a St. Paul, Minn.-based trade association with 2,100 members, serves the industrial and technical fabrics industry.