The polyethylene pipe, tubing and conduit market experienced 5 percent growth in volume from 2002-03, with the oil and gas production segment leading the charge at 32 percent.
Cross-linked polyethylene pipe, tubing and conduit had nearly 50 percent growth in volume, according to recently released data from the Washington-based Plastics Pipe Institute Inc.
``It's a really positive trend out there, as homeowners and builders see the ease and benefits of this [PEX] product,'' said Rich Gottwald, PPI's executive director, in an Aug. 19 telephone interview. ``This product really is making some inroads. It's still a small percentage out there, but it's growing in leaps and bounds.''
PEX has faced code battles, including in California where in 2002 the Plastic Pipe and Fittings Association sued for market access. Currently, the sector faces no big code issues, Gottwald said. In 2005, Washington, D.C., and Maryland will accept PEX in residential buildings, he added. The material often is used in plumbing and radiant floor heating.
Oil and gas production is another high-growth area, growing from 142 million pounds in 2002 in terms of market segment volume to 188 million pounds in 2003.
If the Bush administration succeeds in opening the Northwest to oil drilling, that will stimulate the market further, Gottwald said.
``As this country and Canada look for more resources for gas and oil, the market would obviously benefit from that,'' he said.
The PE conduit market declined 5 percent in volume, going from 180 million pounds in 2002 to 171 million pounds in 2003. Further activity in telecommunications will come from supplying the ``last mile,'' those smaller, shorter stretches that need to be filled out, Gottwald said.
``So much of the country is wired today,'' Gottwald said. ``The focus of the industry is more on water and wastewater infrastructure.''
Member companies have been submitting reviews of projects that continue to expand the range of applications for PE pipe, according to Gottwald. The institute now also is seeing large-diameter pipe replacing steel in the hydro-power market.
High density PE pipe was used in British Columbia at a new hydro plant constructed under the Rutherford Creek Hydroelectric Project. KWH Pipe Canada Ltd. of Mississauga, Ontario, supplied the pipe for that project in diameters of 108-120 inches. According to PPI, one of the first applications for PE pipe in the hydro market was a 2001 project, when it was used to replace a collapsed, 100-year-old, wood stave pipe that carried water to PacificCorp's project in Bigfork, Mont. KWH also supplied that project.
``We've broken into the market and see lots of potential for it,'' said Darrell Sallenbach, a KWH sales engineer. ``We did three [projects] last year. [PE pipe] is economically favorable. We're seeing the price of steel go up, so our pipe is becoming more attractive as an option. The installation costs are quite dramatically reduced in certain situations against steel.''
Thirty companies submitted data in 2003, vs. 31 in 2002 and 28 in 2001. PPI's Statistics Committee estimates market-segment volumes based on reported pipe and resin shipments, according to the report.