MRC Global InSight

Carbon Steel Pipe, Fittings & Flanges

Large inventories and idled mills are the hallmarks of this product group in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic did not have a significant effect on lead times for carbon steel pipe, fittings and flanges (PFF). However, the economic slowdown and reduced end user spending that have resulted from the global pandemic and oil price slump have forced many U.S. mills to severely decrease their output, instead relying on built-up inventory to fill orders.

In the short term, lead times for almost all carbon steel PFF are approximately six to eight weeks, and pricing has remained relatively stable because of supply availability. However, when the industry recovers and demand increases, inventory will evaporate quickly while mills slowly ramp back-up. End users who have mid-size or large project needs in the coming year should work closely with MRC Global to secure their requirements from the limited available inventory in the U.S.

International pipe mills are producing at a higher rate than U.S. mills; however, they could be subject to antidumping penalties or tariffs that were implemented in 2019.

Fittings & Flanges

In general, demand for carbon steel fittings and flanges is weak, which is in line with the low activity levels across the U.S. Low demand, combined with readily available inventory at both distributors and manufacturers, has shortened lead times for carbon steel fittings and flanges.

It is worth noting that we anticipate more consolidation of manufacturers in this product space. Some suppliers may not be able to withstand this period of inactivity and will either close or be acquired. We do not expect this to significantly impact short term availability or price, but if consolidation does occur, there will be fewer sourcing options in the years to come.

Line Pipe

As a group, U.S. line pipe mills are running at approximately just under 15% capacity after building up significant inventories in the first half of 2020. As a result of the excess inventories, electric resistance weld (ERW) sizes up to 16” are available from stock or produced in as little as two to four weeks. For sizes greater than 24” straight seam (SAWL) demand has also decreased over the course of this year and demand is light. Current lead times can be between 8 and 12 weeks. Project activity has pushed major domestic mills lead times on these sizes out to late Q1 2021 on spiral weld pipe (SAWH). We expect availability of these products from U.S. domestic suppliers will be tight through 2020.