Driven by strong demand in Asia, the world valve market will reach just under $51 billion in 2011, according to a report by McIlvaine Company. During this timeframe, Asia is expected to account for 40 percent of the total purchases compared to 29 percent for the Americas.

McIlvaine says the oil and gas industry will be the biggest purchaser. There is substantial growth in unconventional fuels, including gas shale, tar sands, and gas-to-liquids. Direct liquefaction of coal in the U.S. and China promises to be one of the unanticipated hot markets, with turbulence in the Middle East, the Japanese nuclear meltdown, and breakthroughs in commercializing direct liquefaction providing incentive to move forward, according to McIlvaine.

The power industry is expected to be the second largest segment of the valve market through 2011, with coal-fired power generators accounting for more valves than the rest of the power industry combined. Nuclear problems will boost combined cycle natural gas plant sales in the short term, but longer term will have more impact on coal. There are five major types of valves that comprise most of the market.

The valve sizes and materials cover the spectrum, reports McIlvaine, with big subsea valves and small fingernail-sized valves used in fluid power applications.

The industry is comprised of several tiers of companies, with a few large companies accounting for more than $1 billion in valve sales. There is a middle tier of companies with hundreds of millions of dollars in sales. The bottom tier comprises more than 10,000 small companies with special niche technology and applications, according to McIlvaine.