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This comprehensive study analyzes the world polyethylene pipe industry by country, resin, and market. Historical data for 2009, 2014, and 2019 and forecasts for the years 2024 and 2029 are provided. The term “demand” refers to apparent consumption and is defined as production (also referred to as “output”, “shipments”, or “supply”) from a country’s indigenous manufacturing facilities plus imports minus exports. Demand is used interchangeably with terms such as “market”, “sales”, and “consumption”. Data for polyethylene pipe are presented in metric tons (weight of the entire pipe) and dollars.
Study Scope and Summary
Demand is segmented by resin type:
high density polyethylene (HDPE)
cross-linked polyethylene (PEX)
polyethylene of raised temperature (PE-RT)
low density polyethylene (LDPE)
medium density polyethylene (MDPE)
Market segments include:
construction (potable water transmission and distribution; conduit; drain, waste, and vent; storm and sanitary sewer/drainage pipe)
energy (oil and gas drilling, oil and gas transmission, natural gas distribution)
agriculture (irrigation pipe)
Data from the US Census Department were consulted in the preparation of this study and a list of related codes is presented here for informational purposes. However, these codes may not include all products covered in this report or may exclude some products of interest and the data have thus been adjusted accordingly.
Polyethylene (PE) pipe includes pipe made from HDPE (high density polyethylene), PEX (cross-linked polyethylene), and PE-RT (polyethylene of raised temperature), among other resins. Demand for PE pipe is projected to grow 3.7% per year to 15.3 million metric tons in 2024, driven by increasing utilization of polyethylene pipe across all markets.
Global Infrastructure Needs Boost HDPE Sales
Construction spending contracted in most countries in 2020 as governments faced decreased income and budget shortfalls due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, HDPE pipe demand will record healthy growth on average through 2024 as pipe made from this resin is favored over other materials in water and sewer applications:
Higher-income countries continue to turn to HDPE pipe for repair and replacement of older pipelines due to its corrosion resistance and compatibility with trenchless installation.
In lower- and middle-income countries, HDPE pipe suppliers will benefit from the ongoing expansion of water and sewer infrastructure to meet the needs of their populations, especially in areas where access to improved water and sanitation facilities is still limited.
HDPE to Gain Share over Steel in Energy
Steel remains the dominant material in energy pipe applications. However, plastic pipe – HDPE in particular – will continue to increase its share of the product mix in this market:
HDPE already possesses a sizable share of sales in gas distribution applications, a position that will only become stronger going forward as older steel pipelines are replaced.
It is also growing in drilling and transmission applications, albeit from a much smaller base, with sales opportunities advancing in small and medium diameters.
PEX & PE-RT Continue to Displace Copper & Other Plastics in Water Distribution
PEX and PE-RT have become a key materials in water distribution applications due to their flexibility and high-temperature resistance. Additionally, like all plastic pipe, they are resistant to corrosion, which further boosts their use at the expense of copper pipe. While these resins are most common in North America and Europe, PE pipe is gaining share in other regions as well.
In addition, PEX is widely used in radiant floor heating systems, which are gaining popularity across the globe and are standard in new construction in many countries. However, PEX faces stiff competition from competitive plastics with similar properties, such as PP and PB.