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70 Years of Experience with PVC Pipes


Past Success for Future Growth

Plastic Pipes Conference Association # 2004 Milan

Huelsmann, Nowack

The demand for PVC has increased continuously in line with social development. Today, worldwide consumption is approaching 30 million tonnes per annum and global growth is expected to be more than 4 % per annum. A significant proportion of this growth will be in PVC pipes, which make up about 27% of the market for PVC in Europe.

PVC pipes are used in a wide variety of applications, such as sewage, potable water, drainage and gas. In these areas plastics pipes often replace traditional materials. PVC continues to dominate the global plastics pipes market. In Europe, PVC use in pipes was 1.5 million tonnes, in 2002.

The roots of industrial PVC pipe production date back to the 1930`s. The first pipes were produced in 1934 in the Bitterfeld-Wolfen chemical industry area. These pipes were used for different applications such as potable water pipes, transparent food contact pipes (brewery applications) as well as industrial pipes (chemical laboratory and plant applications). The annual pipe production capacity reached about 480 to 600 tonnes in 1941.

In parallel to the increasing production volumes the first standards for plastic pipes were developed and products were made to meet them.
Although the plastics industry is a relatively young materials segment, the production of industrial volumes of PVC polymer and PVC-U pipes is now about 70 years old, which is close to the predicted service lifetime of 100 years for PVC pipe applications.
After the reunification of East and West Germany in 1989 and the involvement of Omniplast with pipe production in Bitterfeld, it was possible to excavate and test PVC -U pipes from the early production years, as they were still in use in 1992/3.

A comprehensive series of tests on several of these old pipes and pipes produced in Troisdorf in the 1930´s and 1950´s was carried out, and the results compared against the current norms. The results provide an excellent basis on which to compare the data from the original long term pressure tests with actual results from 60 year old pipes.

This is not only an interesting reflection of the history of PVC pipe production and application as well as a confirmation of the long term performance predicted 60 years ago, but it is also an important contribution to future PVC pipe developments.

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BOREALISBOROUGEFormosa Plastics CorporationHanwha TotalEnergiesINEOS O&PIRPCKorea Petrochemical IND. Co., LTD (KPIC)LyondellBasellORLEN UnipetrolPetroChina Dushanzi Petrochemical CompanyPRIME POLYMERSABICSCG Chemicals & Thai PolyethyleneSinopecTASNEE