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The qualities of polyethylene pipe are piquing the interest of more civil engineers of potable water systems in North America.

The telecommunications and utility industries have long used PEX-AL-PEX pipe to shield fiber optic cables and deliver natural gas, but utilization of the material for water to drink systems remains trickling slowly toward acceptance in a few places.

In Michigan, La-based JM Eagle’s offer to switch all lead service lines (LSLs) in Flint, where toxic levels of lead leached from damaged pipes, with free PE pipe prompted not just a study of three types of pipe materials – PE, cross-linked PE (PEX) and copper – but a lunch-and-learn session about PE pipe with engineers.

Dustin Langston, an engineer at WL Plastics Corp., which is based in Fort Worth, Texas, said inside a telephone interview that his presentation went over the allotted hour without having objections.

“The information was taken well; that they had lots of great questions. It absolutely was an incredibly productive meeting,” he said.

With estimated annual sales of $2.45 billion and yearly pipe sales of $340 million, respectively, JM Eagle and WL Plastics are the initial- and 11th-ranked manufacturers of plastic pipe, profiles and tubing in Canada And America, based on Plastics News’ latest ranking. Their overall PE pipe sales are down over the last year as a result of 40 percent drop needed from your oil and gas gathering industry, according to the Plastics Pipe Institute (PPI), a trade association operating out of Dallas. However, potable applications show big promise as U.S. cities look to have the lead out of their systems to make some $1 trillion of upgrades over the next 25 years.

Langston said about 15 people attended the meeting on the Flint office of Rowe Professional Services and some others Skyped in. Rowe handled engineering work for Flint until June 30 – the city intends to hire a staff engineer now – but the firm will likely be solicited for future work, the town said in a statement.

The presentation focused on high density PE pipe and installation methods. Rowe’s engineers’ main knowledge of HDPE so far is using it for horizontal directional drilling (HDD) under rivers, Langston said, adding he got a great deal of wide eyes when he described the installation method of pipe bursting. Several attendees had heard about the technology before.

A trenchless method for replacing buried pipelines, pipe bursting was first found in the 1970s in england. The process involves digging roughly 3-foot-by-3-foot entry and exit pits by the house and street, in which the service line meets the distribution line or water main. A cone-shaped drilling head by using a slightly larger diameter compared to the old pipe is inserted into an opening. The front side end from the bursting head is attached to a pulling cable as well as the back end is attached to HDPE pipe fittings. Since the bursting head is pulled through, it breaks the present pipe into pieces and simultaneously expands the diameter in the cavity for the new pipe.

The old pipe pieces just stay in the earth. Experienced crews can replace 3 to 4 service lines every day at 75 percent of the expense of cut-and-bury installation methods, Langston said.

“You take 25 % from the price,” he added. “You don’t ought to dig up people’s lawns or obtain people’s driveways. You save money on having to replace those things and you’re not disturbing the neighborhood. In civil engineering, there’s a new aspect that’s rarely taken into account and that’s social interference. We always talk about cost but what isn’t measurable cost wise will be the calls and complaints to city offices about construction, noise, debris and dug-up yards. Many things are suddenly avoided using trenchless technologies.”

Livonia, Mich., used HDPE pipe from Charter Plastics Inc., which is the No. 77 ranked PPT extruder, to change 27,000 feet of cracking, leaking iron pipes from April through October 2008. The Titusville, Pa.-based company has estimated sales of $35 million annually.

Livonia reportedly saved $200,000 on Charter’s pipe material alone when compared with ductile iron then used pipe bursting to setup it. Todd Zilinick, Livonia’s chief engineer, still tells his colleagues regarding the social and environmental advantages of PE pipe.

“One from the greatest advantages of high density polyethylene pipe is it’s very easy to install, it’s less disruptive … and yes it saves trees,” Zilincik said inside a May 2016 testimonial to the Alliance for PE Pipe, which happens to be operating out of Tulsa, Okla., and promotes using HDPE pipe for municipal water systems within the United states and Canada as “the responsible infrastructure choice.”

HDPE pipe is joined by heat fusing above grade, which essentially produces a single pipeline free from leaks that could be miles long.

“It’s completely welded together,” Langston said. “It won’t leak, corrode or rust and it’s durable using a 100-year service life. It’s also completely inert. Nothing leaches away from polyethylene pipe. If you have a look at each of the food packaging, whether it be milk, soda, water bottles or food, the truly amazing greater part of that is PE.”

Plastics Pipe Institute PE pipe has about 10 percent of your municipal water market, in accordance with estimates.

PPI President Tony Radoszewski isn’t surprised cellular phone approaches for HDPE pipe got plenty of attention in the lunch-and-learn.

“There’s a fantastic story for our own plastic pipe – polyolefin type pipes like polyethylene – with regards to trenchless installation,” he explained in the telephone interview. “What it can do in terms of cost benefits is an important deal.”

Together with pipe bursting, smaller-diameter HDPE pipe can be used to replace existing pipes with a technique called slip lining.

“You don’t burst the existing pipe; you utilize it as a host pipe,” Radoszewski said.

Then, there’s HDD for installing brand-new lines of pipe. A drilling head is sent down an entry pit with an angle and leveled out for any distance. It comes down support using an exit pit pulling new pipe behind it.

While telecom uses remain the one largest marketplace for HDD with a 24.1 percent market share, water uses are going up, increasing from 19.5 percent of HDD applications in 2015 to a projected 19.9 percent this current year, in accordance with the 18th annual Underground Construction HDD Survey released in June. Gas distribution is an additional strong HDD market with 18 percent share.

HDPE remains the No. 1 pipe materials for HDD having a whopping 49.9 percent market share when compared with 22.3 percent for PVC, 14.2 percent for steel pipe and 9.1 percent for ductile iron, the survey also says.

Flint looks to switch an estimated 5,000 LSLs and ten thousand galvanized steel lines, which corrode by leaving nooks where lead can settle, with copper. Existing pipes were damaged when lead leached in to the system once the source of h2o was switched from Lake Huron towards the caustic Flint River without adding any anti-corrosive agents.

Estimates to correct Flint’s water system using traditional copper pipe range from the city’s estimate of $55 million to $80 million and much more by others. Bids to replace LSLs at 500 homes that are seen as the highest risk for lead exposure came in “extremely high,” Mayor Karen Weaver said. The city was expecting the charge to become about $4,000 per house. No bids were awarded in that round and after follow-up meetings the area wants to go ahead with work on 250 houses by two contractors.

“I believe the bids came in a minimum of 50 % higher at $6,000 a property,” Langston said. “Copper may be the only material they’re allowing to spec now for service lines and ductile iron for distribution lines. Not simply is copper pipe for service lines four times the cost of polyethylene pipe, however, you have very extreme methods for getting that copper pipe in the ground and that’s cut and bury, which entails digging up yards and streets.”

A minimum of one Michigan lawmaker has publicly questioned why Flint doesn’t accept the “generous offer” from JM Eagle.

Nationwide, it will cost $1 trillion over the next twenty five years to fix existing h2o systems that are reaching the ends with their useful lives and to serve growing populations, based on the American Water Works Association.

The precise makeup of the buried water pipes isn’t known. Going back to the 1870s, the rollout of numerous pipe materials has evolved from cast iron, to cement-lined cast iron to asbestos cement then within the 1950s-60s ductile iron, PVC and PE.

Globally, the plastic pipe market is forecast to enhance with a compounded annual growth rate of 6.8 percent to 2020, in accordance with a March 2016 market report by Lucintel, a market research firm based in Dallas.

The HDPE pipe market in America possessed a sales importance of about $5.54 billion in 2015 with JM Eagle holding about 18.48 percent of sales, as outlined by Acute Market Reports. In addition to water, HDPE pipes carry wastewater, slurries, chemicals, hazardous waste and compressed gases.

Other PE pipe potable players include Performance Pipe of Plano, Texas; Dura-Line Corp. of Knoxville, Tenn.; and Pipeline Plastics LLC of Westlake, Texas. The businesses rank seventh, eighth and 43rd, respectively, in Plastics News’ latest ranking.

While PE is definitely the No. 1 pipe materials in water systems in Europe, it is still making inroads in the usa. Langston estimates that PE pipe has 10 percent of dexqpkyy02 municipal industry for both water and sewer applications. PVC has the majority of the plastic pipe market share.

“We’re 10 % nationwide but when you visit states like California we’re fifty percent because HDPE pipe will be the only material that is earthquake and ground-movement resistant,” Langston said. “A study by Cornell University performed on 16-inch pipe showed you could have 4 feet of lateral shift along with the pipelines won’t yield. It stays intact.”

Freeze-thaw cycles in northern states like Michigan and drought conditions in Texas also result in the ground to go, making PE pipe a good option, Langston said.

“It doesn’t matter your location in america, you’re going to have ground movement,” he added. “When you appear at pipe failures, the key reason for the is bell-and-spigot separation. The pipe pulls apart. But for those who have a fused, welded system, including polyethylene, the pipe just moves with the ground. You will find no problems.”

Florida is yet another big marketplace for PEX-AL-PEX pipe as a replacement material for corroded metal pipes, Langston said.

Elsewhere, material acceptance can feel such as a slog. There are mayors, council members, administrators, engineering firms and public works employees that need to buy into the alteration to PE.

“We are constantly going all over the country speaking about PE pipe,” Langston said. “The interest is very amazing although the change process is slow.”