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Plastics pipes offer big future in this region

December 12, 2008

3 Min Read
Plastics pipes offer big future in this region

Shown is an inside view of one of Anabeeb’s GRP manholes with an integrated ladder. 

Massive infrastructure investments in the Middle East help that region's plastic pipe market continue its climb up the growth curve.

U.A.E.-based processor Anabeeb (Mussaffah, Abu Dhabi), part of the General Holding Corp. Group), is profiting from the demand with its core offering of low density polyethylene pipes for irrigation, PVC pipes from 20-500mm diameter extruded on seven Cincinnati Extrusion (Vienna, Austria) lines, but most importantly for large diameter centrifugally cast glass fiber reinforced plastics (GRP) pipes up to 2.4m diameter in standard lengths of 4m. Fittings, couplings, and GRP storage tanks are also specialties.

Anabeeb, which translates to 'pipe' in Arabic, licenses the GRP process from HOBAS Engineering (Klagenfurt, Austria). As a matter of fact Anabeeb is the largest licensee HOBAS has of the centrifugal casting technology. Sultan Hasan Ghaith Al-Zaabi, Anabeeb general manager, says he is experiencing surprising demand because installers today see competitive materials (concrete, ductile iron, steel, clay) offering the disadvantages of short service life, high maintenance costs, unavailability due to global demand, and cost.

“Within the last year we have seen steel prices jump from $735/tonne in the region to $1100/tonne,” he says. Like PVC, GRP pipes offer longer useful life in both pressure and no pressure applications, corrosion resistance to both soil and effluents, good hydraulic flow characteristics with low friction due to the smooth bore, as well as reduced transport, handling, and installation costs due to their lighter weight.

Mohamed Alkaff, factor manager at Anabeeb's 70,000 m2 Al-Mussafah Industrial Estate plant, says the $60 million/yr turnover company is producing flat out with full order books for months to come. A staff of 280 works 24/7 to turn out finished product. The company processes 1200 tonnes/mt of PVC pipe and between 120-140km/mt of GRP pipe.

The company, which began GRP pipe casting in 1997, has provided pipe systems for prestigious desalinization projects, wastewater treatment, sewage, and road construction in Fujairah, Bahrain, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and other Gulf areas. GRP pipes are cast on six centrifugal lines that spin and heat the material (chopped glass rovings, unsaturated polyester or vinyl ester, and calcium carbonate-based reinforcing materials [generally quartz sand in grain size >1mm] to provide stiffness and strength). Ethylene-propylene diene monomer (EPDM) is used to insure a tight fit between the pipe and joints.

The GRP pipes can be installed either buried or as trenchless applications. While the pipe system offers flexibility, its stiffness is a real plus in the Gulf region where weak, corrosive soils make pipe laying a challenge. The GRP pipes provide good backfill compaction where it is often difficult to guarantee correct installation.

One thing Alkaff is particularly proud of is a development the company designed and started producing last year - GRP sewage system manholes and covers. “These value-added products offer a lot of advantages compared to traditional concrete manholes, which are 20% more expensive, including corrosion resistance, weight reduction (half the weight of conventional manholes), and ease of installation,” he says. The units consist of two-part GRP shaft structures. The lower part can have either a GRP or vinyl floor channel and the vertical shaft is cut from a standard GRP pipe.

Company general manager Al-Zaabi sees a bright future for plastics pipes in his region what with a contract backlog of orders reaching 12 months for Anabeeb's GRP pipes.

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