Dallas-based high density polyethylene pipe and fittings maker Independent Pipe Products Inc. has added a new American Maplan extrusion line capable of making pipe in diameters up to 65 inches.
The large-diameter machine will be the centerpiece of an IPPI plant that company officials expect to open by mid-2010. The plant will feature six or seven lines, Ron Hopton-Jones, IPPI's president, said in an April 23 telephone interview.
Hopton-Jones said the new plant will employ about 30. The company buys American Maplan extrusion lines, he said.
IPPI has been fabricating HDPE pipe fittings for about 30 years, cutting extrusions and fusion-welding them into fittings. Hopton-Jones said it is difficult to injection mold fittings competitively for diameters larger than 10 inches.
The company currently operates out of a 110-employee, 275,000-square-foot plant purchased in 2004, when the longtime fittings maker moved into HDPE pipe extrusion after acquiring the PE pipe division of North American Pipe Co. of Houston.
North American's PE business was extruding about 24 million pounds of throughput on five lines in 2004. Since the acquisition, Independent has grown that business to about 40 million pounds annually on nine extrusion lines, Hopton-Jones said.
The firm makes smooth-wall pressure pipe, which is used to serve markets including natural gas delivery, mining, sanitary sewer and potable water transfer.
The new plant, which will be somewhere in the eastern United States will have about 50 million pounds' annual capacity, Hopton-Jones said.
As they settle on a site, IPPI officials are banking on an economic rebound and on trickle-down effects from the Obama administration's plan to invest heavily in the nation's infrastructure.
We think it's coming, but we don't see it yet, Hopton-Jones said. We do feel it's going to be a benefit to all of the heavy-construction industries.
About half of IPPIs sales come from pipe, the other half from its core fittings business.
The company currently makes pipe in diameters ranging from 2-36 inches. The new 65-inch line will open up a plethora of new markets. It's not like you're going to find one on every street corner, Hopton-Jones said of the gargantuan piece of equipment.
Neither Maplan nor IPPI would confirm it, but the 65-inch line is believed to be only the fifth of its kind in the United States. Los Angeles-based JM Eagle owns two, and Gainesville, Texas-based PolyPipe Inc. owns another.
Paul Godwin, director of sales for McPherson, Kan.-based American Maplan Corp., said he expects demand for 65-inch lines to grow over time.
When manufacturers receive an order for pipe of this diameter, it can be in miles, Godwin said in a telephone interview. When you look at the production rates, we're talking about having a line booked out a significant portion of the year just for one order.
From that standpoint, as applications continue to grow, because of the durability and ease of install of this pipe, even though it's a huge capacity, it has limited production, he said. They're producing this stuff at over 3,000 pounds an hour, but every foot weighs 400 pounds. It takes a while to get a few miles of pipe.
HDPE pipe is the dominant material used for natural gas delivery in the United States. It has only a fraction about 3 percent of the water delivery market, and HDPE pipe producers see it as a growth opportunity.
It has tremendous market potential, Hopton-Jones said. If we can double market share if we can just grow from 3 percent to 6 percent it will be tremendous growth for the industry.