Worldwide demand for plastic pipe is forecast to increase 4.6 percent annually through 2012 to 8.2 billion meters, or 18.2 million metric tons, according to a study by The Freedonia Group ( Freedonia says gains will be based on continued strong prospects in developing nations, particularly in China, which figures to see 30 percent of overall length demand gains for plastic pipe between 2007 and 2012.

Despite below-average growth, Feedonia predicts developed countries will continue to account for the majority of total plastic pipe demand. These regions (Western Europe and North America, as well as certain nations in the Asia/Pacific region, such as Japan and Australia) have the highest levels of pipe use intensity. However, they are also comparatively mature markets, where growth in construction activity tends to be well below the global average, inhibiting growth rates for plastic pipe, according to Freedonia.

In the developing countries of Eastern Europe, Asia (exclusive of Japan) and the Africa/Mideast region, gains will outpace the global average, benefiting from ongoing infrastructure development. Economic growth in these countries will create demand for plastic pipe in networks for telecommunications and in residential home building applications. Ongoing efforts across these regions to upgrade water treatment systems will boost demand for plastic pipe used for potable water delivery and in drainage and sewage applications. Finally, in many nations, demand is expected to benefit from the expansion of natural gas distribution networks.

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is the leading plastic pipe resin, accounting for nearly two-thirds of plastic pipe demand by weight in 2007. PVC pipe is popular because of its low cost, durability, strength and ease of extrusion, allowing it to make inroads against nonplastic pipe materials. Demand for HDPE pipe will benefit from use as small-diameter pipe in natural gas transmission, as conduit for electrical and telecommunications applications, and as corrugated pipe for drains and sewers. While comparatively small, demand for fiberglass pipe will post well above average gains, reflecting growth in extreme environment applications.