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7 Jan '13 - SAPPMA AT BARCELONA PIPE CONFERENCE
Southern African association participates with other bodies

SAPPMA held the country’s name high at the world’s biggest international event focused on the plastic pipe industry – the Pipes XVI Conference in Barcelona, Spain, in September.

This year’s event attracted a record number of almost 500 participants and 33 exhibitors attending from 47 countries. A total of 117 individual presentations were delivered, covering a wide variety of topics ranging from market issues and pipeline solutions to application areas and pipe system developments.

“Environmental concerns such as lowering our carbon footprint, energy use and sustainability were amongst the major topics,” said SAPPMA Chairman Jan Venter, who attended the conference.

Other areas of focus at the Barcelona show were improving skills levels through training, product testing and other more varied topics ranging from large-diameter coiling, jointing/welding, installation, structured wall PP, oil and gas, irrigation, water treatment, mining, geothermal, standardization, total cost of ownership (TCO), water mains failure and PVC stabilization.

“The quality of the presentations was very high, albeit quite technical, and included primary research data covering uPVC, oPVC, HDPE, PP, PB, cPVC, PERT,” said Venter.

Significant industry developments
As a result of the ongoing research into plastic polymers, the pipe industry is regularly confronted with and introduced to new raw materials that have enhanced properties with reduced wall thicknesses.

“Bigger plastic pipes than was ever envisaged, 10 or 20 years ago, are now being manufactured. Solid-wall pipe is already made up to 2,5m diameter and structured wall pipes up to 4m. Extruder output is up to 2,5 tons per hour in PVC with serious talks of 4 tons per hour soon. Polyethylene pipe is produced at up to 2,2 tons per hour,” said Venter, adding that other significant developments include the direct ploughing of pipes of 450mm diameter#.

SA plastic pipe industry vs international trends
Although the plastic pipe industry in South Africa is much smaller than that of Europe, North America, Asia and even Australia, Venter’s view is that local industry is well developed.

“Local pipe volume is of the order of 140 000 tons per year, compared to 3 million tons in Europe. World production is of the order of 18 million tons,” said Venter.

The relatively small size of our market implies a number of significant differences, such as profitability, investment potential and hence modernization of equipment.

“Because our production runs are shorter in South Africa, we have lower efficiencies and higher scrap rates. This economic impact limits our R+D compared to our international counterparts. These are areas that need to be improved if we are to be considered a serious international player,” he added.

The next Pipes Conference will take place in Chicago, USA, from 23-24 September 2014.

#Notes:
Direct ploughing in: A great deal of coat saving is possible if the usual process of installing pipe can be shortened. This is achieved by using long lengths (coiled) of pipe, fitted on a special rig attached to a tractor. The tractor ploughs a furrow and at the same time the pipe is uncoiled and fed into the furrow. A saving is achieved by eliminating special trenches as well as pipe joints and much handling. Up till now, this has only been possible with small diameter pipes, but systems have now been developed to handle big pipe up to 450mm diameter.