The pipe network

The piping industry exists to carry liquid and gas materials from one place to another for use, storage or disposal. These materials are vital to life and health, and the methods used in construction and maintenance of pipes are being constantly worked and improved upon, says Shikha Mishra.

Pipes and tubes related companies form a major segment of the ArabPlast exhibition held in Dubai biennially.
Pipes and tubes related companies form a major segment of the ArabPlast exhibition held in Dubai biennially.

The piping industry exists to carry liquid and gas materials from one place to another for use, storage or disposal. These materials are vital to life and health, and the methods used in construction and maintenance of pipes are being constantly worked and improved upon, says Shikha Mishra.

With workers pouring into the UAE there is an increased need for housing, non-residential buildings and infrastructure. In a building, pipes are a crucial component as they carry materials such as water, gas, oil and electricity from the source to their users.

Pipes also carry waste and sewage away from factories and homes.

Industry experts place the value of the global pipe industry at US $100 billion, (AED3.67 billion) with fiberglass pipes coming in at $4 billion.

Pipe producing companies were also affected by the rising steel prices in the global market. - Marcel Schmitz, head of sales and marketing, Adpico

Apart from the construction sector, the high demand for pipes in the Middle East is driven by the growth in petrochemical plants, and the oil and gas industry.

Materials such as steel, ductile iron, fiberglass, plastic and concrete are used in pipe production.

The GCC is the fastest growing market for fiberglass pipes and Future Pipe Industries is a leader in the market. Since the 1970s, technology has evolved to enable fiberglass to be used as either the pipe material or a feasible alternative for certain applications across all end markets, except gas transmission.

This market growth has been supported by not only the strong growth in end markets where fiberglass enjoys a sizeable market presence, but also a wide acceptance in the region for it instead of traditional pipe materials.

Over the past five decades, fiberglass technology has evolved to produce a material which today offers a superior alternative specification for pipe systems to traditionally used pipe materials. Fiberglass pipe is a composite product, made of glass fibers, embedded in or surrounded by thermosetting resin and is subsequently cured.

Fiberglass pipes include glass reinforced polyester (GRP) pipes, glass reinforced epoxy (GRE) pipes and glass reinforced vinylester (GRV) pipes.

Al Fajer Information & Services- UAE, one of the leading exhibition organisers in the region, puts together the ArabPlast exhibition in Dubai biennially and pipes/tubes related companies form a major segment of the exhibition.

The 2007 edition of ArabPlast attracted more than 537 companies from 37 countries and occupied exhibition space of over 20,000m2.

Al Fajer's general manager, Satish Khanna, says that more than 90% of pipes used in the construction sector are made of PVC.

Pipes can be of many types. PE, PP and PVC are the pre-dominant therma plastic pipe materials and glass reinforced plastic pipes are also commonly used.

Major raw materials suppliers to the pipe industry include some prominent names such as Borouge- UAE, SABIC -Saudi Arabia, Total Petrochecmicals, and Lyndellbassel Industries.

Major pipe manufacturing companies in the region include Future Pipes, Gulf International Pipe Industry, Gulf Plastic Industry, and a large number of Iranian companies. According to sources, the UAE claims to have more than 12% share of the world's piping market.

Gulf International Pipe Industry from Oman has signed a contract for setting up a $100 million pipe mill in Sohar, Oman.

Abu Dhabi based Adpico makes small diameter black and galvanised ERW pipes to large diameter API line pipes. With future additions of the stainless steel and the SMS 8 inch to 24 inch mills, Adpico will become one of the biggest and most diversified ERW mills in the world.

Adpico's head of sales and marketing, Marcel Schmitz, says that the company is the biggest pipe producer in the Middle East with a current production capacity of 800,000 tonnes of pipes and profiles which will be increased to 1.5 million tonnes in the future.

"The pipe diameters which we currently produce range from half inch to eight inches. This is the most common size for the domestic market," says Schmitz.

Adpico is the only company in the UAE that holds an American Petroleum Institute certification, which enables them to produce pipelines for the oil and gas sector.

"In 2011, we will add pipes in our product portfolio in larger diameters, and will be ready to produce a 24-inch EMW line specially designated for the oil and gas business.

We are working towards a 120-inch spiral pipeline which we will begin producing in 2009 and we are adding UV painting line for pipes of half to eight inches," says Schmitz.

According to Schmitz, Adpico is currently producing at half of its capacity. "We produce less, because the local market is not very big.

We can produce at higher capacity, but then we would only be able to sell a quarter of what we make. If you compare the UAE to Saudi Arabia or Iran where projects might come up for oil and gas pipelines for 2,000km project will only be about 400km to 600km," says Schmitz.

In 2009 Adpico plans to diversify into spirally welded water pipes usually used as sewage pipes.

The competition in the market is not just from other pipe producing countries such as China or India, but comes from within the domestic segment.

"There are smaller manufacturers which are producing pipes of inferior quality. The competition is not in terms of quality, but in terms of price. As is the case with other building materials, the piping industry is an extremely price sensitive market," says Schmitz.

Pipe producing companies were also affected by the rising steel prices in the global market.

"Prices sky-rocketed in November last year and though the market has weakened a little bit, it is still on the higher side.

Project contractors were forced to re-calculate their costs on projects as building material that was $630 per tonne last year went up to almost $2,050 per tonne, so project managers within the building, construction and energy sector began looking at price instead of quality," says Schmitz.

Nonetheless, the pipe section, especially in terms of the construction industry, will continue to grow tremendously.

The future of the piping industry is positive as the use of pipes will continue to grow in the sewage, drainage and telecommunications sectors.

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