Water-line upgrades and new construction drive plastic pipe market

PP and PE increasingly compete with PVC

As the world grows thirsty and its water infrastructure becomes leaky, builders and government bodies are now pressed to take a fresh look at old pipes. Market research firm Ceresana (Constance, Germany) projects that global demand for plastic pipes will top 37 million tons in 2023.

CeresanaDrought awareness is partly responsible for growing interest in pipes. Ceresana’s report on the plastic pipes market points to Brazil as an example, but the South American country is hardly an isolated case; India’s drought has crushed crop yields and California continues to struggle with its own water woes. Global drought conditions highlight the need for municipalities and water utilities to get the most they can out of their water systems by making them as efficient as possible. In the United States, pipes leak an estimated 7 billion gallons of drinking water daily and the country experiences more than 240,000 water main breaks annually, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Water line replacement isn’t the only application driving plastic pipe demand, Ceresana said. Pipe demand is largely driven by civil engineering and building construction work, which requires new pipes for potable water and sewage, as well as protective piping for telecommunications cables. But government austerity can weigh on these investments. Cuts in public sector capital expenditures can lead to reduced private sector infrastructure investments, Ceresana said. Also, the appetite to upgrade water and telecommunications networks varies from country to country.

With budget constraints top of mind, Ceresana notes that plastic pipes have advantages compared to other types of pipe materials. Plastic pipes are lighter and less expensive compared to pipes made from steel or stoneware. When they need to be repaired or replaced, plastic pipes can be replaced more quickly. Pipes made from polyvinyl chloride pipes (PVC) are finding use for water, sewage, and cable protection. Nonetheless, pipes made from polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene (PE) are increasingly competing with PVC pipes in potable water applications, Ceresana said. 

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