MRC Global InSight

Carbon Steel Pipe, Fittings & Flanges

Even though oil and gas prices returned to their pre-pandemic levels in early 2021, the demand for carbon steel pipe, fittings and flanges (PFF) remains depressed. However, demand in industries like automotive, appliances, and construction have strong consumption that continues to increase. With so much steel capacity idled in 2020, this ramp-up of demand for slab, sheet and coil has caused lead times to extend and prices to climb for those products to historic levels in a very short time period.

But even with lackluster demand in our industry, the large overstocks of PFF from 2020 have faded. The supply chain has flattened its excess inventory, and distributors have come back to the market to restock. As mills continue to slowly ramp up production, lead times are extending due to the small increase in activity. MRC Global will work closely with end users on planned projects to secure material early in the planning cycle.

Fittings & Flanges

In general, demand for carbon steel fittings and flanges is up slightly from the lows of 2020 but remains very weak. Domestic forged steel fitting and flange manufacturers have sold excess inventories and are now beginning to ramp up production to meet demand. This increase has caused deliveries to extend and prices for finished goods to rise as manufacturers are faced with higher raw material costs. Weld fitting pricing remains mostly unchanged for now, but with rising input costs, we anticipate increases on these products in the coming months. As with every downturn, there has been some consolidation and shuttering of manufacturers and suppliers. As this extended period of weak demand continues, it is possible that we could see even more consolidation before demand improves.

Line Pipe

Carbon steel pipe pricing and deliveries have been on a steep incline since the latter part of summer 2020. Raw material costs continue to escalate and lead times for steel are extending. Electric resistance weld (ERW) pipe mills continue to see lackluster demand despite an uptick in activity, with more choosing to idle operations through the down cycle. Increased coil pricing alongside reduced capacity has continued to drive pipe pricing up. Forecasts for the duration of the increases vary, but it is generally viewed that this trend will continue through Q3 2021 and beyond. Macro factors influencing the steel market may extend this rally, stretching elevated pricing well beyond the timelines for new capacity coming online. Project planning is critical to mitigate supply disruption for the second half of 2021.