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An Analysis of Past and Future Markets for Thermoplatics Pipes

 

Fundamentals # 1979 Brigthon

Production and Consumption data for the major European pipe producing nations are given and the major pipe markets for PVC and the Polyolefins are identified Comparison is made with market data from the United States. Projections for the future of the European pipe industry are offered.

Transportation by pipeline represents the cheapest mode of product transport today, as evidenced by the data (1) in Table 1 Amongst the proliferation of various pipeline materials, it is only right that Plastics should participate in this market; although, equally, it is to be recognised at the outset that plastics materials do not have any divine right to a monopoly at the expense of the more traditional materials and that the very rapid rates of growth achieved in the past are unlikely to be maintained in the future.

Pipelines and pipeline materials represent a very broad topic and thus for the purposes of this paper, consideration is restricted to the more commodity-type thermoplastic materials, such as the Polyolefins and PVC in the applications of public services and specialised industrial usage. The penetration of plastics into these fields of application is based on the inherent properties of these materials which confer advantages in use over and above those of metals. These properties are well known and include the economics of installed cost through easier handling, transportation and simpler jointing techniques, the resistance to the chemical and physical agression of the natural environment and the strength and durability to provide long-term service under the normal internal and external stresses at economical cost. However, less publicised are some of these materials' limitations, such as poor weathering resistance, tendancy towards brittle fractures under adverse conditions and the basic viscoelastic nature of thermoplastics in general. These limitations, unless resolved by the introduction of new techniques, could be one of the restrictions to further growth.

As a percentage of the present West European thermoplastics consumption, pipe at 8% represents a relatively small outlet, but in terms of extruded product, at 1. 1 million kilometres, it is still impressive. 

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