MRC Global InSight

Gas Products

Polyethylene (PE) Pipe & Fittings

Demand for polyethylene (PE) pipe was strong through 2019. The mild winter allowed utility crews to work at a fast pace and manufacturers were unable to build inventory to typical levels. In 2020, as utilities shifted workload to main lines to avoid customer-facing service line work amid the COVID-19 crisis, demand for larger sized PE pipe spiked. Because of this, lead times for medium density and high density have extended. Manufacturers have turned on additional capacity and lead times will begin to stabilize, but demand will remain strong as utilities shift back to service work to complete customer hook-ups in preparation for the cooler winter months. PE pipe manufacturers will continue to operate close to full capacity. Resin prices dipped in the spring with oil, but have rebounded quickly with strong demand in consumer plastics. Prices are anticipated to continue to rise, but will level off towards the end of the year.

Risers

Riser demand softened in 2020 as service work slowed due to COVID-19 restrictions. Manufacturers increased capacity in response to strong 2019 demand resulting in decreased lead times in 2020. Pricing is expected to continue to be volatile for the foreseeable future due to the cost for component parts and the uncertainty related to existing or potential tariffs. Riser demand is expected to rebound quickly as utilities resume normal operations and begin to catch up. Current lead times are ranging from stock to 12 weeks.

Meters Sets

Similar to risers, demand for meter sets slowed in 2020 due to lower work levels resulting from COVID-19. Because of this, manufacturers have been able to work down their backlog, and even build inventory for certain configurations. Meter set demand will rebound quickly; however, as utilities perform more work at the meter in preparation for winter months. Lead times have stabilized at stock to 12 weeks.

Meters

Metering lead times have extended in the past six months as demand has increased and manufacturers have struggled to keep pace. In the first half of the year, lead times reached unprecedented levels and hovered at 47 weeks for new orders. However, meter manufacturers have seen a large number of order cancellations as utilities realize they are overbooked and unable to reach anticipated work levels due to COVID-19. Because of this, meter lead times have shortened and are anticipated to stabilize in the 16 to 20 week range towards the end of the year. However, demand in 2021 will likely spike again as utilities work to catch up on state mandated changeouts that they were unable to complete in 2020. Prices are expected to increase 3% to 5% due to capacity limitations and general market uncertainty.

Regulators

In 2019, regulator lead times continued to extend due to insufficient manufacturer capacity and supply disruptions that were the result of tariff implementations. Now, uncertainty surrounding component material and raw goods sourced from China could pose a big risk to regulator availability in 2020.

Tracer Wire

Copper prices crashed in 2020 as a result of economic uncertainty relating to a drop in global oil prices and the COVID-19 pandemic. Prices are still subject to volatility as economic status remains fragile; however, copper has been slowly recovering since April. Capacity with the manufacturers remains strong and lead times are steady at stock to 4 weeks.