South Korean pipe maker Hyundai Pipe Co. Ltd. said it sees solid opportunities to overcome “hard-to-break stereotypes” about polyethylene pipe in the country, and is making a sizable expansion to manufacture large-diameter pipe for the country's infrastructure base.
Hyundai, based in the city of Sangju, will be adding three lines to make very large polyethylene pipes, with a diameter of 2.6 meters, and tripling its headcount to 150 employees by 2017, said President Cho Sun Jae.
Some of the investment details were first released earlier this month by Battenfeld Cincinnati Group, which announced Hyundai was buying one of its pipe lines for the large pipe. Battenfeld Cincinnati is headquartered in Vienna and has production sites in Austria, Germany, the United States and China
In a subsequent email to Plastics News, Hyundai gave more details, saying it would actually be purchasing a total of three manufacturing lines for the large-diameter pipes and tripling the size of its staff, within three years.
One line will be installed later this year, with the second in 2016 and the third in 2017, the company said.
It said it sees opportunities in South Korea, which is the world's 13th largest economy, to push for PE pipe from what it says is a low base compared to other developed economies.
“Comparing with the high popularity of the high density polyethylene pipe in European and other advanced countries, Korea is still in the initial stage of the [HDPE] pipe applications,” said Cho, who estimated the material had less than 10 percent market share among all pipe materials.
He said utilities and other infrastructure customers tend to remain skeptical of PE pipe, which he attributed to “stereotypes of the previous generation having no innovative insights.
“Hyundai Pipe believes that, as a solution provider, it could lead the Korean market to recognize and select the polyethylene pipe applications for the next generation,” Cho said. “Even though it is approved by many countries, those hard-to-break stereotypes make [it] harder to actively trigger the polyethylene pipe applications in Korea.”
He said the company, which has annual sales of about $16.7 million, is looking for strategic and technical alliances with others in the industry.
Hyundai Pipe was formed in 1990 as part of the Korean conglomerate Hyundai Group, but in 2012 it split off and Cho took ownership, the company said.
The company has three factories in different locations in Sangju City. It said it's been gradually expanding its manufacturing capacity since 2012.
Right now, the company makes pipe between 100 millimeters and 1.5 meters in diameter, particularly for transporting fresh and waste water and for applications in the petrochemical industry. Hyundai Pipe said it “has a strong point in the field of power plants, having 50 percent of [market] share … in its domestic polyethylene pipe supply.”