Don Mills, Ontario-based pipe manufacturer Ipex Inc. is investing about C$8 million (US$6.64 million) to launch what company officials say is the best choice for buried potable water main and irrigation system applications biaxially oriented PVC pipe.
Also called PVCO, the material is made by realigning molecules in PVC resin, creating a pipe with much greater impact strength, about 80 percent more pressure tolerance and a higher carrying capacity due to a thinned-out inner diameter.
It's really the evolution of plastic pipe. It's a better product, Richard St.-Aubin, Ipex's director of business development, said in an April 15 telephone interview.
Ipex is manufacturing the pipe at one of its Montreal-area plants.
JM Eagle also is manufacturing PVCO pipe in the U.S. in a project that began as a PW Eagle initiative before the JM-PW merger. The man who spearheaded PW Eagle's PVCO program was John Houle, who is now with Ipex.
Ipex has licensed the PVCO manufacturing technology from Zwolle, Netherlands-based Wavin NV.
Ipex is the first North American pipe maker to be able to offer PVCO in large diameters, St.-Aubin said. The company is focused on sales in Canada.
We see it as an improvement over standard pipe, St.-Aubin said. It doesn't mean it's going to take over the market. It just means in some applications it might be better. We're seeing a lot of good feedback from the engineering community in Canada. And Canada is what we're primarily interested in.
Ann Arbor, Mich.-based certification group NSF International on April 16 announced that Ipex's PVCO pipe was the first to receive certification to ASTM F1483 and AWWA C909 standards for pressure pipes.
Jim Stepahin, the new executive director of the Dallas-based Uni-Bell PVC Pipe Association, said Ipex's PVCO investment is another in a series of moves by pipe companies to gain competitive advantages and increase profit margins.
This isn't anything new, he said in a telephone interview. The technology might be new, but this is a long series of attempts by companies to, you know, find a better mousetrap.
The reception that Ipex and JM will get will be interest, but guarded interest, because it's not a tried-and-true system like [standard PVC pipe].
Ipex's PVCO piping uses a gasket system different from that of the commoditized PVC pipe systems used today.
I think that's a potential issue, Stepahin said. I don't know. They may have a great gasketing system. Those are the kinds of questions municipalities are going to be asking themselves.
Ipex officials said the new pipe, called Bionax, represents a major step forward in terms of environmental sustainability. Less energy is needed to produce Biomax and so has a smaller carbon footprint, the company said.
Also, post-installation, the large inner diameters and smooth surface reduce the energy and costs associated with pumping, the release said.
The key to penetrating the market will be selling engineers on the upgraded material.
It's lighter. The trick is to get the engineers to understand this is a much tougher, more impact-resistant material, St.-Aubin said. Once they get it and understand the process, the feedback we've been getting is very positive.