Polyethylene (PE) pipes have a long and distinguished history of service to the oil and gas, mining and other industries. Stringent waste management laws, ongoing construction and the rehabilitation of aging or obsolete municipal pipe systems coupled with the numerous advantages that PE offers are some of the reasons for the increased popularity of PE pipes. Ever since the use of PE piping systems began in the 1950s, PE pipes have gradually evolved to meet the requirements of the market. PE80 and PE100 are PE compounds that are designed to produce pipes whose main application is the transport of gas and drinking water under pressure for a guaranteed lifetime up to 100 years. PE100 exhibits significant improvement in properties that ultimately determine the lifetime of the PE material.
the use of PE pipes of the highest quality and focuses on providing information support to end users, thereby enhancing trust in PE piping systems. In an interview with Lekhraj Ghai of POLYMERUPDATE, Pierre Belloir—President of PE100+ Association and Technical Manager at Total Petrochemicals Research Feluy—explains the objectives and functions of the association and discusses the market scenario for PE pipes.
Interview of Pierre Belloir (PB) with Lekhraj Ghai (LG):
LG: Tell us about PE100+ Association. Which are the current member companies?
PB: PE100+ is a worldwide Association composed today of 11 companies. These are Borealis, Borouge, Ineos, IRPC, LyondellBasell, Prime Polymer, SABIC, SCG Chemicals & Thai Polyethylene, Sinopec Shanghai, TASNEE and Total. Our members are PE producers and each member company offers at least one pre-compounded PE100 in their portfolio, which is a prerequisite for membership.
LG: Which are the testing organizations? Which are the parameters that are tested?
PB: The testing labs are selected by our independent administrator Kiwa. Kiwa is strictly independent and not involved in manufacturing, trading or other activities that might endanger its impartiality. Its core activities involve certification with related testing and inspection. Kiwa is in charge of collecting samples for testing, dispatching them to the selected testing labs and collecting the final results. Afterwards, we establish the PE100+ positive list.
The three main characteristics that are tested every 10 months on 110 mm pipes are: hydraulic pressure resistance, resistance to slow crack growth and resistance to rapid crack propagation. All tests are carried out as per international well-recognized standards.
LG: What exactly is PE100 material? How important is the use of approved-quality PE materials in infrastructure, construction and durables?
PB: PE100 material is a pre-compounded pipe grade which, on top of the requirements of international standards, fulfils the more severe PE100 requirements on a regular basis.
Pressure pipe applications are long-term applications and require sustainable performance. Therefore, to guarantee expected lifetimes of up to 100 years, one needs to use well-designed and controlled PE material. Using PE100 materials ensures peace of mind for the end users.
LG: What are the advantages of PE100 pipes over other plastic or iron pipes?
PB: Over metallic pipes, the lighter weight, longer life expectancy and the absence of corrosion and resistance to biological build up are the advantages of PE100 pipes. Moreover, PE pipes are easy to install. Owing to their flexibility, they are also adapted for areas of significant ground movement, particularly where earthquakes or landslides are prominent.
LG: How does PE100+ Association assure quality consistency in production and application of polyethylene, especially with the larger-diameter pipes in use these days?
PB: Regardless of the pipe dimensions, the pipe grades are regularly tested by independent labs for the aforementioned three main characteristics.
LG: What kinds of assurances/guarantees are extended by PE materials and PE pipes that comply with PE100+ standards?
PB: The specificity of PE100+ Association is to guarantee the consistency of listed materials. All PE100 listed materials on the PE100+ positive list available on our website are regularly (every 10 months) tested for the three main characteristics of a pressure pipe material by independent labs. Only after conforming to the series of tests can a PE material appear on the PE100+ positive list.
LG: How does PE 100+ Association go about achieving its main mission of promoting and supporting the PE piping industry?
PB: PE100+ Association is a recognized actor in the value chain for pressure pipe applications. Each year, PE100+ Association organizes a meeting of the Advisory Board, which is composed of a panel of worldwide PE pipes experts, which include individuals from testing labs, engineering or installation companies, standardization committees and end users. Moreover, the PE100+ website provides valuable technical information for PE pipes users, and we continuously enrich it with more and more useful information.
LG: Please enlist some of the achievements of PE 100+ Association during your term as President.
PB: The main achievements are the addition of new members—we are now 11 and aspire to grow further in the coming years—and the reinforcement of technical activities with other industry associations having common projects such as TEPPFA (The European Plastics Pipes and Fittings Association) and PPI (Plastics Pipes Institute) in the USA.
LG: Besides coming together to form the association, what roles do major manufacturers like Total play within the PE 100+ Association?
PB: Each member of the association is entrusted with the job of making it as active as possible. Global promotion activities are essential for educating the industry and spreading awareness about the advantages of using PE pressure pipes.
LG: How does PE100+ Association intend to promote itself outside of Europe and Middle East in key markets of Asia such as China and India?
PB: PE100+ Association has set up two sub-groups—one for Asia and one for the Middle East. Each sub-group, as per the global strategy of PE100+ Association main Board, is entitled to organize some promotion activities in its zone. The Asian sub-group started promotion activities a couple of years ago and is active in Chinese standardization, pipes conferences and end-users meetings. The Middle-East sub-group has been only recently set up and will soon define appropriate promotion activities to push PE100 in this fast-growing market.
LG: What can be expected in the future for PE pipes? Growth in which sectors are expected to be beneficial for the PE pipes segment?
PB:Several consulting companies are indeed predicting substantial growth in the coming years on the back of the shale gas developments and the need for access to water and sanitary networks for the growing population.
LG: What growth rates can be expected for the HDPE pipe market in the near future?
PB:The global growth rate for the PE pipes industry can be estimated at 3 to 4 percent. However, the growth rates may exhibit regional variations from mature markets to still growing ones. Asia—particularly, China and India—remains the place with the highest potential.
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