At Shell Polymers, we want to build (Real)ationships by making sure we’re more than just a polymer supplier. We also want to be a converter’s knowledgeable friend who shares insights on things that help grow your business.

Take, for example, the market for pipes made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE Resin). It’s booming.  Let’s look at five things converters need to know about HDPE pipe, the growth opportunities in this sector, and how your polymer supplier can enable those opportunities.

HDPE Pipe is In Demand

When you think of pipes, what may first come to mind are more traditional materials like copper, ductile iron, concrete, or clay. But the future of pipe is being driven by HDPE – and for good reasons. The durability, sustainability, flexibility, chemical and corrosion resistance, light weight, affordability, and robust properties of HDPE plastic has made it a prime choice for a wide array of HDPE pipe applications in:

As a result, Transparency Market Research estimates the global HDPE pipe market to expand at a CAGR of around 6% from 2020 to 2030.1 The global HDPE pipe market is expected to be valued at $32.7 billion by 2030.2 Helping fuel that growth is increasing demand for pipeline infrastructure in oil and gas exploration activities.3

Further driving HDPE pipe demand is renewed focus and funding for infrastructure in the coming years, as our societal underpinnings continue to age. There is an excellent opportunity in this sector, as underground infrastructure is experiencing a water main break every two minutes.4

HDPE Plastic is Strong & Durable

HDPE plastic is known for its high resistances and a longer life expectancy than clay, steel, ductile iron, or copper when it comes to piping. It also offers resistance to corrosion, bacteria, and chemical buildup. In fact, HDPE pipes are mainly used in the oil and gas industries due to their ability to withstand high corrosion resistivity and zero reactive properties, and long service periods.5

HDPE pipe is also resistant to temperature changes, rain and wind, load changes (such as water hammer, a pressure wave caused when a liquid or gas is forced to stop or change direction suddenly), and expanding or contracting soils. It won’t break when water in the lines freezes and can withstand and even dampen shock waves more than other pipe materials. That makes it well-suited for rugged and changing environments.

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HDPE Pipe Promotes Sustainability

HDPE has a small carbon footprint beyond the creation of the material.6 Since HDPE is much lighter than heavy materials traditionally used in pipe construction, it is less expensive to transport. That saves on gas and energy usage.

HDPE pipe is also recyclable. Traditional pipe materials, such as lead, could pose substantial environmental and human health hazards in disposal and recycling. Recycling metal pipes uses large amounts of energy. HDPE has fewer sustainability trade-offs for end-users than some other materials like copper pipe, which is not considered a “green” product due to the toll copper mining and manufacturing takes on the environment.

And the durability and leak resistance of HDPE pipe also aids in shielding the environment from harm. HDPE helps prevent leaks that can result in severe environmental and financial consequences for handlers of chemicals and potentially hazardous materials.

HDPE Pipe Beats Traditional Pipe Alternatives

When compared to typical pipe materials, HDPE demonstrates significant advantages. Using HDPE to create pipe can be an upgrade from:

  • Copper and ductile iron because HDPE is more corrosion-resistant and flexible, lighter and less costly to transport, and won’t burst in freezing weather.
  • Clay, since HDPE is less brittle and won’t break if pressure is applied or the ground shifts, is less expensive and weighs much less, is easier and less costly to repair, and won’t enable intrusive plant roots.
  • Concrete, as HDPE requires less maintenance and inspections, it won’t build up sewage materials that cause backups and is less susceptible to breaking when handled.

Shell Polymers Can Fulfill Your HDPE Supply Needs

Shell Polymers’ new polyethylene plant in Monaca, Pennsylvania (within 700 miles of the majority of North America polyethylene buyers) is a supplier with the polymer grade slates and polymer supply that converters need to help make their products. And we will help them determine what Shell Polymers pellets are right for them, based on their business needs.

Our Innovation Center is an 86,000-square-foot lab space adjacent to the plant and home to over 50 industry experts who will be available to work with converters. It includes:

Our Analytical Lab, which helps ensure pellet consistency by analyzing pellets as they come off the reactors to verify that the resin produced is molecularly and chemically correct. By doing this, we enable product quality that our customers can trust and that will run successfully on their machines.

And our Application Hall, which houses commercial-scale, state-of-the-art pipe equipment. We use it to make pipe, which is key to the resin qualification process by verifying that it functions in processing equipment the way we expected it to. Further, the equipment fosters deep customer collaboration since customers can run trials on our machines in the hall.

Shell Polymers gives converters both a polymer supply and the support they need to capitalize on opportunities in HDPE pipe and beyond.