MRC Global Volume 9 Issue 1 May 2018 InSight

MRC Global InSight

Valves, Automation, Measurement & Instrumentation

We continue to see a steady increase in demand from the North American markets in 2018, and we expect demand will remain strong for the balance of the year. Demand for valves, automation, measurement and instrumentation (VAMI) products is especially strong in the Permian Basin, where rig counts and drilled uncompleted wells (DUCs) continue to grow, and in the midstream market for pipeline valves.

Far East producers have become important suppliers of valves and component parts worldwide. A newly proposed determination of action by the US Government, under Section 301: China’s Acts, Policies, and Practices related to Technology Transfer, Intellectual Property, and Innovation, could have a significant price impact on check valves and valve components that originate in China and ship into the US. If the proposed action becomes a reality, all check valves and valve components identified under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) subheading 8481 could incur a 25% tariff, in addition to the 5% tariff currently being assessed on check valves. We will continue to monitor the situation for updates and details regarding Section 301 and the price impact to check valves and valve components entering the US market.

Additionally, new developments in China are putting pressure on pricing and lead times. Due to stricter pollution control enforcement in China, many Chinese foundries will need to add costly pollution control equipment or risk being shut down by government officials. The change in pollution control reinforcement has forced some manufacturers of cast valves to look for new sand cast foundry sources. These increases apply to all global geographical markets.

The tightening of foundry capacity has caused lead times to extend and casting components prices to increase. Additionally, the cost of scrap used to produce steel castings in China has increased about 36% since mid-2017 levels. The cost of living in cities known for foundry and valve manufacturing continues to increase faster than employee wages, which is causing higher than normal employee turnover in foundries and valve factories. These new developments could have a far-reaching impact, as many valve manufacturers source their castings and components from China.

Our VAMI inventory levels are in line with current market conditions, and MRC Global continues to monitor changes in Asia. New stock orders are in place to ensure VAMI supply during this period of extended lead times and increased market activity in all oil and gas streams.

Overall, the US upstream market demand is strong. However, this is driven by the land market, and offshore is still weak. The international upstream market is predominantly offshore and has been slower to recover. There are signs of recovery in the North Sea and Norway, but the higher lifting costs are still prohibitive to strong growth.

The demand for valves and automation products in the North American midstream, pipeline and gas utility markets remains strong, and we anticipate continued growth in demand through 2018. Ongoing and newly approved pipeline activity, both for new projects and mandated integrity work, continues to provide steady demand for valves and actuators for these applications. We expect demand will continue over the next 12 to 24 months. As a result, we have increased our inventory position on pipeline ball valves up to 42”, slab and expanding gate valves to 24”, as well as double block and bleed plug valves used in most terminals, to support current and projected 2018 activity. Many of these valves can be equipped with actuators and controls in one of MRC Global’s valve and engineering centers. To further support customer demand and shorten lead times, we are pleased to announce the addition of high pressure actuators into our inventory for expedited deliveries on pipeline ball valves.

The North American midstream gathering market remains strong and in line with the uptick in the upstream market. MRC Global is well-positioned with inventory to meet the increased demand. The international midstream market is not as active on new pipeline activity.

The demand for valves used in the downstream market has been steady, and lead times on some valve types are expected to be extended through 2018. Strong US refining turnaround schedules and planned maintenance projects continue, which we anticipate will lead to an increase in demand. Chemical sector activity should continue to increase in line with major project activity. Refining and chemical demand in the Middle East and Asia continues to be strong. Investments to increase capacity in these markets have driven brownfield projects. While this is also true in Europe, it is occurring at a lower level of investment.

Refinery and chemical customers continue to introduce higher pressures, increased temperatures and more corrosive and erosive conditions in their daily operations. Triple offset butterfly valves and metal seated ball valves continue to gain ground over traditional gate valves, especially where quarter-turn on/off and positive shut off (zero leakage) is preferred. Two added benefits of this change are a smaller valve footprint and less expensive pneumatic actuators to automate these valves.

To support our customers with these operational challenges, MRC Global has expanded our downstream product offering to include refinery Coker valves, HF acid valves, metal seated ball valves, Orbit rising stem ball valves, double block and bleed plug valves, double and triple offset butterfly valves, as well as chrome-moly and high nickel alloy valves.

We are pleased to announce the addition of exclusive access to Trojan batteries to supplement our measurement and instrumentation lines. When packaged with our current family of exclusive Cameron Measurement and Instrumentation products, this will provide a complete bundle, including back-up battery power for measurement and/or instrumentation at either tank batteries or remote locations. Key measurement product groups include turbine meters, turbine meter totalizers, Floco® meters and CLIF MOCK samplers. Demand from the market for these products remains strong, and, as with most products, we anticipate this to increase in line with improving oil prices.