Tubi USA Inc. is on a roll with mobile extrusion factories that can be packed onto flatbed trucks, hauled to project sites and set up within 72 hours to manufacture polyethylene pipes for drinking water, sewers, natural gas distribution, and oil and gas gathering.
The subsidiary of Tubi Ltd. in Australia has two mobile plants in Bartow, Fla., one in Odessa, Texas, and a fourth is being built by extruder manufacturer Battenfeld Cincinnati for mining work in Arizona.
Tubi's patented portable plants can extrude 4- to 26-inch pipe in lengths of 500 feet or more right where it needs to be installed. This eliminates the need for dozens or even hundreds of trucks to deliver heavy, bulky materials to a job site. And the longer pipe lengths reduce the need for 90 percent of the conventional weld joints, which cut down on installation time, labor and future maintenance.
Tubi pipe can be produced in long-length sticks or on coils. The company developed coiling technologies for large-bore reeling and stringing that can handle a mile of 4-inch pipe on one reel.
Founded in 2009 in New South Wales by Tubi CEO Marcello Russo, a second-generation pipe maker, the company invests about $6.5 million into each mobile, modular extrusion factory, which has 20 million pounds of annual capacity each.
"While most pipe companies are cutting production because of the down market we are in, we're quadrupling to 80 million pounds of capacity," Tubi Chief Operating Officer Wes Long said in a phone interview. "The country needs innovation and new technology, and we feel like we can fill that void by saving money for the owners and construction companies, eliminating the risks of handling big pipes and being good for the environment by reducing truck traffic."
Publicly traded in Australia, Tubi generated sales of $31.2 million in 2019, which is up from $17.3 million in 2018 with the increase attributed to additional work in the United States, according to the 2019 annual report for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2019.
Tubi entered the U.S. market in early 2018 with one mobile extrusion unit in Odessa to produce pipe in the Permian basin.
"At the time, demand far outweighed the supply of pipe. We did well in 2108 and for the most part 2019, but at the end of last year, you saw the oil and gas gathering market slow," Long said. "Companies wanted a return on their investments and capital spending slowed quite a bit. Then, oil prices plummeted and then we got hit with COVID-19."
The pandemic resulted in travel bans and lockdowns that closed schools and nonessential businesses around the world, reducing demand for oil and gas.
In Texas, since the start of 2020, total oil production has dropped 30 percent and total natural gas production has fallen 20 percent, according to The Texan news outlet, which points to statistics kept by the Texas Railroad Commission, a regulatory agency for a variety of state industries.
Most of Tubi's work in the Permian Basin dried up and company officials looked for a new place to set up shop.
"Competitors with conventional manufacturing plants can't go anywhere. They're stuck in that bad market, and they have had to furlough people. We didn't," Long said. "We're fortunate. We can pick up our plant and move."