Infrastructure bill pumps money into pipe projects

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Plastic pipe producers are extruding as much product as they can, rushing to fill orders that had already been on the rise since the start of the pandemic and are now exploding further with the law on investment and employment in infrastructure.

Historic federal legislation from President Joe Biden’s administration earmarked $1.2 trillion to rebuild US roads, bridges and railroads; expand access to drinking water; improve access to high-speed Internet; and advancing environmental justice.

The $55 billion for water and wastewater infrastructure will be spent on projects that address federal priorities, like upgrading leaky distribution systems and removing lead service lines that continue to supply household and business taps.

Some projects have started and most will be completed within the next five years. Producers of PVC and high-density polyethylene pipes are facing a new wave of orders after a few dizzying years caused by the pandemic.

“Pipe inventories are very low. We cannot manufacture enough pipe to meet demand,” said Bruce Hollands, executive director of the Uni-Bell PVC Pipe Association, in a telephone interview. “The market is booming.”

This has been the case since the beginning of the confinements linked to COVID-19.

“Some people think a lot of municipalities had capital budgets with money and when engineers were working from home, they were more focused on those projects,” Hollands said. “Now the infrastructure bill continues the campaign to upgrade infrastructure.”

Hollands leads the Irving, Texas-based business group that promotes the engineering and engineering benefits of PVC products for potable water, sewer and irrigation applications. The group claims the pipes are durable, inexpensive and long-lasting, with a demonstrated longevity of over 100 years,

PVC pipe accounts for the largest share of new miles installed for the water and wastewater markets, according to Boston-based Bluefield Research. The company tracks PVC, HDPE and Molecularly Oriented PVC (PVCO) pipes.

By 2022, Bluefield projects that PVC will have a 62.3% share of installed water pipe miles, followed by ductile iron at 26%, HDPE at 4.2%, steel at 3.8 %, concrete and others at 1.8% each, and PVCO at 0.2%. percent.

Developed as an improvement to conventional PVC pipe, PVCO pipe has greater tensile strength for larger pipe diameters and lower flow velocities.

HDPE pipes, which are mainly used for drinking water pipes and wastewater projects, also have a lifespan of 100 years and are strong, flexible – which is popular in earthquake-prone areas. earth – light and waterproof when fused together.

On the wastewater side, PVC pipe represents 48.6% of the kilometers of pipe installed, followed by HDPE at 24.3%, others at 11.5%, ductile iron at 10%, concrete at 3 % and steel at 3%.

Overall, in 2022, 69.8% of new pipes that will be buried for water and wastewater will be plastic pipes, according to Bluefield Research.

“Plastic pipes are now becoming the primary choice for new pipe installations,” Municipal Water Analyst Lauren Balsamo said in a phone interview.

Sales rose 15% to approximately $3.6 billion at JM Eagle, a Los Angeles-based PVC and PE pipe maker that is North America’s largest producer of pipes, profiles and tubing. according Plastics News’ new classification.

At Advanced Drainage Systems Inc. in Hilliard, Ohio, sales soared 40% to $2.1 billion, making it the third-largest pipe, profile and tube extruder in North America, according to the updated ranking. Ipex USA LLC in Pineville, North Carolina, also saw its sales increase by 40% to around $1.26 billion, putting it in fifth place in the ranking.

Other double-digit increases were seen at Dura-Line/US and Canada, Performance Pipe and WL Plastics. The sales of these companies increased by 12 to 18%.

By 2030, the research company shows that the share of installed plastic pipes rises to 74%.

“Price is a big part of that, along with increasingly advanced materials,” Balsamo said. “With advancements in technology, plastic pipes are becoming stronger and more durable. They are not only advantageous from a cost perspective, but also from a longevity perspective compared to when they first entered the market.”

Early generations of plastic pipe could become brittle or exhibit joint quality issues or stress cracks, but materials and manufacturing methods evolved to address these issues.

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