Pipeline Plastics LLC installed a new extruder at its Levelland, Texas, plant that can make high density polyethylene pipes with diameters up to 65 inches as part of a plan to expand its product offering and geographic reach.
The Westlake, Texas-based business had been producing pipes with diameters up to 24 inches but demand is growing for larger sizes from the water and oil-and-gas gathering markets in Texas and the region, company spokeswoman Patricia Isbell said in a phone interview.
Company officials said they believe Pipeline Plastics now joins just two other extruders in offering 65-inch diameter pipes.
"Most of them will be transporting water in one way or another: potable water for municipalities, process water for energy and mining and raw water for agriculture," Isbell said. "Large diameter lines also are used for sewer outfall lines and have been uniquely used to transport cold water from deep water lakes or the ocean for metropolitan air conditioning heat exchangers."
Isbell said she couldn't disclose the amount of money invested in machinery and location logistics to bring a pipeline of this magnitude into operation, but she did say the Levelland facility had existing space for the extruder, which will make new products for a large and diverse market.
"Pipeline Plastics made a significant multi-million-dollar investment with this project but one we believe will be returned faster than normally expected," Isbell said.
The prospects for 26-inch through 63-inch diameter HDPE pipes also looks good, according to Jeremy Hohn, a senior account manager at Pipeline Plastics.
"It's not just the 65-inch pipe, which is primarily for sewer and water mains, but the sizes in between — the 36, 42 and 48 — that also will be potable water infrastructure and sewer. Energy also uses a lot of the 36 and 42 as well to get rid of water from their drilling," Hohn said in the same phone interview. "We see the biggest opportunity in the sizes in between what we were able to offer before and what we're able to offer now."
Then, there's the nation's aging infrastructure. Isbell pointed to the 2017 report card issued by the American Society of Civil Engineers, which gives rail a B (good, adequate for now); bridges, ports and solid waste a C+ (mediocre, needs attention); and everything else Ds (poor, at risk): aviation, parks and recreation, dams, drinking water, roads, energy schools, hazardous waste, inland waterways, transit, levees and wastewater.
"They give the country a grade of a D in potable water," Isbell said. "Much of our piping infrastructure is 75 to 100 years old and every year there are over 240,000 water main breaks costing in excess of $2 trillion in wasted treated drinking water, which is epic."
President Donald Trump is calling for $1 trillion of infrastructure upgrades to be paid for by public-private partnerships. The plan is to put up $200 billion of federal funds, probably in the form tax credits, to spur $800 billion of private-sector investment with ownership stakes in some revenue-generating projects, like toll roads.
The administration's Infrastructure Week started June 5 with Trump addressing facets of the proposed national overhaul related to: privatizing air traffic control duties of tracking and guiding planes; increasing the fee paid by barge operators that use inland waterways to improve locks and dams; and reducing the time it takes to get permits for infrastructure projects.
However, a 6-page fact sheet about infrastructure initiatives for the 2018 budget also proposes the Environmental Protection Agency use a new loan program called the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) to leverage private investment in large drinking water and wastewater projects. The loans can cover up to 49 percent of a project's eligible costs, which would be leveraged with non-federal sources.
"Pipeline Plastics believes the acquisition of this 65-inch line will be on the forward edge of any piping infrastructure investments," Isbell said.
The new extruder began making pipe in April. Since then, the company is getting more inquiries from project designers earlier in the engineering stage for pipe sizes in the 36- to 65-inch range, Hohn said.
"That's really the key window where we wanted to differentiate ourselves," he said.
The Levelland plant currently employs about 40 people. Isbell said she expects jobs to be added in production, maintenance and shipping.
Pipeline also has manufacturing plants in Decatur, Texas, and Belle Fourche, S.D.