Steinar Aasland


As the general European market shows signs of recovery, confidence is beginning to reappear in the project market. A number of projects, which were previously in the Pre-FEED (Front-End Engineering and Design) or FEED stages are now expected to receive funding, while similar announcements involving the advancement of European EPCs (engineering, procurement and construction) should facilitate additional increases in product demand. As project activity increases, European manufacturers could face some potential challenges if projects are executed from South East Asia due to increased competition from local manufacturers.

Europe has seen an overall reduction of valve inventory levels, influenced by the depression and changes witnessed in the downstream market. A number of industry facility closures, sell-offs and consolidations has resulted in a revised approach to spend on common valve products, allowing for optimized materials management in key locations. Throughout the year, MRC Global will continue to take steps to maximize and diversify in-stock inventories in order to cater to customer requirements and changing market dynamics in all industry sectors.

Generally speaking, material availability is expected to be good, aided by surplus capacity within the marketplace. Similarly, lead times on most common-items are expected to remain at the levels witnessed in the last six-months, despite an anticipated increase in demand from the project sector. Pricing for core commodities is likely to remain at current levels, however, recent increases in the price of nickel will have an eventual upward effect on commodity products and some impacts to stainless steel prices. Additionally, reduction in inventory spend could cause some manufacturers to increase prices, however, spare mill capacity could counteract this effect, equalizing pricing for most products.

The North Sea

The Norwegian Continental Shelf (NCS) is one of the largest global offshore oil and gas producers, generating a large market, with limited corresponding services. With a steady stream of successful exploration and production (E&P) efforts, capital expenditures are anticipated to grow in the NCS and the region is likely to continue as an epicenter of future development.

The Norwegian market continues to experience growing demand for duplex and high alloy PVF from NORSOK M-650 qualified manufacturers. At present, European steel plants have kept pace with requirements, however, new processing platforms and large subsea investments have provoked some concern regarding future product lead time and fulfillment. With growing pressure on a limited number of manufacturers, price increases of 8%-10% are expected on various material grades by mid-year 2014.

In 2014, the NCS is estimated to increase overall petroleum production by .5% when compared to 2013. Four new fields were introduced into the shelf in 2013 and an additional 13 are currently under development. Oil and gas prices continue to dictate forecasting and some progress, while operational investments are expected to level-out in the coming years. Overall, NCS three-to-four year activity levels are expected to remain high, particularly for new project activity, as many customers introduce newer, cost-efficient extraction methods and automated processes.


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