MRC Global InSight

Gas Products

Polyethylene (PE) Pipe & Fittings

Demand for polyethylene (PE) pipe and fittings has been very strong in 2021, causing pressure on pipe and fitting manufacturers. Production issues and unplanned shutdowns from the adverse winter weather in the U.S. Gulf Coast during Q1 2021 have plagued resin manufacturers, resulting in resin allocations. In April, a major PE pipe manufacturer shut down suddenly due to quality concerns, removing a large portion of capacity from the market. Unprecedented increases in demand, the reduction in capacity and limited availability of raw materials have all caused extended lead times and skyrocketing prices. Pipe pricing has increased roughly 20% in the last 6 months. The strength in demand will likely continue through the end of the year and into 2022. Unless pipe manufacturers can realize capacity gains, lead times will remain at 20+ weeks.

Risers

Riser demand is exceeding pre-pandemic levels as end users attempt to catch up on delayed project work due to COVID-19. Capacity is strained as manufacturers struggle to add labor to keep pace with demand, and lead times have pushed out. Riser pricing is tied to the cost of steel pipe, PE pipe and meter valves, all of which have seen large increases this year. Riser pricing has increased 12% to 15% in the last 6 months.

Meters Sets

Similar to risers, demand for meter sets has increased rapidly throughout 2021. Labor markets have struggled to provide much needed resources causing manufacturers to look towards automation to increase output and keep pace with higher levels of demand. Regulator availability is pivotal to the timely completion of meter set assemblies, and with the current strain on the regulator market, meter set lead times have been impacted.

Meters

Like other critical components, gas meter demand has been restored to pre-pandemic levels as utilities make gains on mandated meter change-outs. New housing starts are also a big contributor to increasing demand as the real estate market continues to strengthen. With one of the major manufacturers exiting the diaphragm meter market at the end of 2021, gas utilities will be forced to plan their material needs further out or switch technologies to continue to receive meters. MRC Global’s supply chain team is available to assist with recommendations for alternate purchases.

Regulators

Component availability from China and other overseas markets continues to plague regulator manufacturers. Unpredictably as a result of COVID-19, both at manufacturing locations and upstream component suppliers, is driving extremely long lead times and inconsistent deliveries making it hard for end users to plan effectively and complete routine work. Access to containers shipping from China and a backlog at major Chinese shipping ports has added to the delays.

Tracer Wire

Unlike other critical commodities, access to copper has not been an issue in 2021. The rapid run-up in demand caused manufacturers to fall behind briefly, but, in general, there is ample capacity to ramp-up quickly in order to keep pace with demand. Copper pricing, however, has remained volatile, driven by strength in other sectors. Prices have remained high since a peak in March of this year.