Pipes made of plastics are becoming more popular in all sectors. They have important advantages compared to those made from other materials such as aluminum, concrete, cast iron, copper, and steel. Due to their low weight, their resistance to corrosive effects and chemicals as well as the simple handling, e.g. trenchless installation, their importance in all application areas increases. The market research institute Ceresana expects revenues generated with plastic pipes in Europe to amount to approx. €12.7 billion in 2020.
Thanks to their propitious properties, there are virtually no segments where plastic pipes do not offer a real alternative. The degree of importance various applications areas have for individual types of pipes varies considerably. For example, pipes made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) are relatively cheap and are thus used extensively in the sewage, potable water and cable protection sectors. While pipes based on polypropylene and polyethylene are still in the process of challenging the dominance of PVC-pipes in potable water supply, they are already playing a notable part in both gas supply and in industrial applications.
During the upcoming years, the utilization of other plastics, such as polybutylene, polyamide and acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene, is likely to become more and more widespread. "We expect demand to increase by, on average, 2.7% p.a. during the next eight years. Among others, these pipes are used for specialty applications such as ceiling cooling, compressed air systems, heating installations as well as the construction of automobiles and naval vessels and other industrial processes", explains Oliver Kutsch, CEO of Ceresana. The utilization of composite pipes (e.g. PE-X and aluminum) offers the chance to optimize specific properties of pipes.
The most important sales market for plastic pipes is Germany that accounted for 13.5% of total European consumption in 2012. Russia ranked second, followed by Turkey, France, and Italy. In the past, many Eastern European countries were able to profit from the highly dynamic development of many important sales markets for plastic pipes. Currently, however, the construction sector in many European countries is suffering from a crisis. Plastic pipes are able to profit from substitution effects nonetheless, at the expense of other materials. For example, pipes made from metal or concrete are replaced by plastic, as this material offers superior properties and processing options. In addition, the rising price of raw materials, like steel or copper, plays an essential role in the substitution process.
On the relatively saturated markets in Western Europe, demand for high-quality pipes made of polyethylene and polypropylene in particular is increasing, while the demand for PVC pipes is expected to develop at only very modest rates. Growth rates recorded on the market for plastic pipes during the boom of the construction sector prior to the economic crisis will not be reached again in Western European countries. The situation, however, varies widely when examining individual European countries. While a rather positive development is expected for Denmark, Germany or Switzerland, a number of southern European countries such as Greece or Spain are unlikely to recover in the near future.
Eastern European demand for PVC pipes is likely to increase at rather high growth rates in comparison to Western Europe. According to analysts at Ceresana, the backlog demand in expanding the sewage and potable water supply in particular will cause demand for plastic pipes to increase at higher growth rates. Russia and Turkey especially will be important growth markets.
New report on plastic pipes