MRC Global InSight

Gas Products

Polyethylene (PE) Pipe & Fittings

Despite delays caused by COVID-19, demand for polyethylene (PE) pipe was up in 2020, compared to 2019. Manufacturers continue to struggle slightly with absenteeism, but in general, adequate COVID-19 protocols have kept production up. 2021 should bring even higher levels of demand, but manufacturers have added capacity and are well-positioned to service PE pipe needs. Lead times should remain stable at stock to 4 weeks throughout the year. Resin prices continue to rise due to strong plastic demand in the consumer segments. The adverse winter weather in the Gulf Coast during Q1 2021 caused many resin manufacturers in the region to briefly shutdown, declaring force majeure. This caused upward pressure on resin prices; however, PE pipe manufacturers are well-positioned and resin supply remains unimpacted.

Risers

Riser demand softened in 2020 as service work slowed due to COVID-19 restrictions, resulting in excess capacity and decreased lead times. In 2021, demand is anticipated to exceed 2019 levels and capacity will book up quickly. Pricing is expected to continue to increase in 2021 as commodity prices climb rapidly due to a strengthening economy.

Meters Sets

Similar to risers, demand for meter sets slowed in 2020 due to lower work levels resulting from COVID-19 and lead times shortened. Because of the anticipated rebound in demand this year, meter set requirements will grow quickly, and lead times could extend. Prices will increase as steel, iron and other commodity prices continue to strengthen.

Meters

Project cancellations at the end of 2020 resulted in a large amount of excess meter capacity. However, utilities are starting to catch up on changeout programs and capacity will book up and add outward pressure on lead times. Utilities should plan and enter orders early to avoid any delays in 2H 2021 project work. Meter prices are anticipated to increase with rising commodity prices and economic strength.

Regulators

Regulator lead times spiked in early 2020 driven by uncertainty in component material coming from China at the onset of COVID-19 but leveled out in the second half as a result of the lower demand levels. However, there are already signs of longer lead times in 2021 as the anticipated demand rebound gains strength. Prices will continue to be volatile as commodity prices soar.

Tracer Wire

Copper prices have rebounded since the crash in 2020 as a result of COVID-19 uncertainty. Already in 2021, copper was trading at 10-year highs but has since corrected. We anticipate copper prices will continue to strengthen in 2021 driven by housing, automotive, renewables and the strength in the utility sector. Lead times will remain stable at 4 weeks as wire manufacturers forward buy copper to shore supply, and new copper mines come online to address the new demand.