MRC Global InSight

Gas Products

Polyethylene (PE) Pipe & Fittings

Plastic Pipe Institute (PPI) statistics as of 2018 year-end indicate a 18% year-over-year increase in polyethylene pipe pounds produced for all segments, with gas distribution demand up 16% year-over-year. As a consequence, manufacturers have generally increased capacity to meet increased demand. We expect gas distribution pipe and fitting consumption to remain strong for the foreseeable future.

Current lead times for small diameter pipe and tubing range from stock to four weeks. Lead times for larger sizes of standard pipe items have reduced to stock to two weeks. Manufacturer inventories have greatly improved, and lead times are expected to remain favorable for the remainder of 2019.

Risers

Riser demand continues to increase due to active replacement programs. Manufacturing capacity has improved and is keeping pace with increased demand. Pricing is likely to be volatile in 2019 due to the uncertainty of tariffs and the cost for component parts, like polyethylene service tubing and carbon steel pipe. Riser demand is expected to remain strong throughout the year with lead times ranging from four to eight weeks.

Meters Sets

Demand for meter sets in 2019 continues to grow as more utilities see the efficiencies and cost savings related to manufactured assemblies. Lead times increased to 8 to12 weeks as demand has started to outstrip capacity. The effects of Section 232 and Section 301 tariffs, compounded by cost increases on regulators, gas valves and unions, will increase pricing throughout 2019. MRC Global has placed forward orders for meter sets throughout 2019, allowing fabricators to plan production schedules around long lead time component parts.

Meters & Regulators

Meter and regulator demand is expected to remain strong through 2019. Lead times have extended due to industry demand and production interruptions during the second half of 2018. Infrastructure replacement projects across the U.S. are creating strong demand along with the strong return of new housing activity. Pricing is likely to increase during the next cycle due to increasing raw material costs and tariffs. The results of tariffs on castings are now also impacting meter and regulator costs.

Tracer Wire

Tracer wire pricing is largely dictated by its primary raw material, copper. Copper pricing has been negatively impacted by fears of global economic slowdowns (in China and the U.S. in particular) and trade tensions. Given how strong the domestic economy currently is, we would expect copper prices to be trading well above $3.00/lb., and yet we’ve maintained a tight trading band between $2.70-2.90/lb. If the global dynamic is stable with positive outcomes from trade discussions, we would expect copper prices to climb above $3.00/lb. in 2019. Furthermore, mine closures will also create increases in prices later in the year.