MRC Global InSight

Valves, Automation, Measurement & Instrumentation

The valve, automation, measurement and instrumentation (VAMI) group of products continues to experience modestly increased demand in an energy market with many challenges. Transportation bottlenecks and container shortages have lasted longer than expected and the highly contagious COVID-19 Delta variant is maintaining its dominance around the world. As a result, delivery delays, price increases and labor issues continue to hinder the global supply chain.

Gas Utilities

Gas utility company demand for valves and actuators has increased significantly as public service companies continue to expand services to meet the demands of home construction. Although the industry typically experiences a seasonal slowdown of gas utility construction, the restricted supply of small/medium valves has many customers planning ahead and making forward purchases for 2022 projects. MRC Global inventory of 24" and smaller welded body valves is complete with various end connections from the highest quality manufacturers. MRC Global valve actuation products and services offer legacy brands of actuators and controls along with premium service.

Downstream, Industrial & Energy Transition

The downstream valve and automation sector continues to show positive signs of recovery, with activity picking up on both the capital project and MRO fronts. These positive indicators are being met with increasing headwinds associated with global supply chain and logistics, and we are anticipating mounting pressure on raw materials in the form of additional cost increases and shortages. Exporting delays at the port of exit have caused shipping containers to idle up to 10 weeks for a reservation on a vessel, leading to troublesome lead-time delays. As end-users race to be the first to the market with capital investments related to the energy transition movement, these supply chain concerns may pose significant risks associated with cost control and on-time delivery. To mitigate these risks to our valued customers, MRC Global is taking a proactive approach by expanding our global VAMI inventories (overwhelmingly comprised of “Low-E” valves), leveraging our overall buying power and scale and collaborating with our customers and suppliers to stay ahead of the curve.

Upstream Production

Upstream valve and actuation demand remains stable but it is still significantly weaker than the demand of years past. The latest Drilling Productivity Report1 states that there are 5,385 drilled but uncompleted wells (DUCs) in the United States for the period ending September 2021, the lowest for any month since June 2017. While the decline in DUCs in most major U.S. onshore oil-producing regions, especially the Permian region, reflects more well completions, it also reflects a reduction in new drilling activity. Global rig counts are more active than this time last year due to an increase in demand.2 However, the North American rig count remains low at 544 rigs in the U.S. and 166 in Canada, while the international rig count comes in at 787. These numbers are historically low compared with other periods when commodity prices were near similar levels. We anticipate an increase in the number of active rigs and well completions long-term to maintain current production levels, therefore, increasing the demand for well hook up and gathering system valves.

Midstream Pipeline

Midstream gas pipeline construction picked up slowly in 2021, creating some pressure on the supply of smaller diameter valves (2” through 12”) and actuation products to support gas utility expansion and pipeline integrity projects. However, with capital project activity still lagging, demand for larger diameter (24” and greater) and mid-range (16” and 20”) valves remains depressed. While small scale liquid pipeline projects continue, the liquid pipeline, tank and terminal valve and automation sector activity has slowed significantly. Automation products, including electric, low pressure pneumatic and high-pressure gas actuators with various controls, are readily available through MRC Global’s Valve and Engineering Centers. Our new Valve Engineering and Modification Center (VEMC) continues to support our midstream customers with in-house modification services.

1. Drilling Productivity Report: eia.gov/petroleum/drilling. Accessed November 4, 2021.
2. Baker Hughes Rig Count: rigcount.bakerhughes.com. Accessed November 4, 2021.