Global Demand Is Years Strong for Flow Equipment

The U.S. petrochemical industry continues to have positive reports about its market growth posted. Opportunities are increasing for suppliers of valves, pumps, flowmeters, and related equipment. A quick review of plant construction projects, capacity expansions, and other plans shows that demand is increasing for a range of chemicals whose production benefits from the assured supply of low-cost natural gas generated by the shale gas and oil boom.

With this expansion, of course, follows the need for the fluid and gas flow equipment that is essential for new and expanded production facilities.

Demand for flow control equipment like this mass flowmeter will remain strong as companies build plants and invest in infrastructure projects around the Gulf Coast. Credit: Luigi Chiesa

Demand for flow control equipment like this mass flowmeter will remain strong as companies build plants and invest in infrastructure projects around the Gulf Coast. Credit: Luigi Chiesa

The major opportunities for fluid and gas flow equipment are in the chemical plants being built or planned for the U.S. Gulf Coast, primarily in Texas. More than 3.45 million metric tons (about 7.6 billion lb) of nameplate capacity is in the works for propane dehydrogenation units alone in the state, according to figures developed by ICIS, a news, database, and consulting company. From 2015-18, at least five companies plan units: Dow Chemical (750,000 metric tons), Ascend Performance Materials (1-million-plus MT), Formosa Plastics (658,000 MT), Enterprise Products (750,000 MT), and REXtac (300,000 MT).

Two other companies, PetroLogistics and Enterprise, are looking to add undisclosed capacity with an expansion and a new plant, respectively.

BASF, moreover, is considering the addition of a propylene plant in the Gulf Coast to supply all of its North American market demand. In an announcement on May 2, the company said the plant would represent its largest facility investment ever ($1.36 billion) anywhere in the world. While BASF has not disclosed the plant's capacity, officials said it would be "world class," which puts it in the range of at least several hundred thousand tons per year. The plant could be on stream by 2019.

These and other activities are raising demand for valves - so much so that one company specializing in surplus industrial equipment is expanding its inventory of valves. Industrial Surplus World (ISW) of Houston recently created a valve division, which provides direct sales and support to end-users, mostly in the chemical and petroleum industries.

ISW did not respond to multiple telephone requests for an interview or additional information. In a statement released by the company in April, however, officials said ISW has added a 200,000-sq-ft warehouse in Houston for the valve division.

ISW wants to become a leader in the valve industry, the statement added, and is building "relationships with valve manufacturers and associated resources ..." One such relationship is with Cameron International, a Houston-based supplier of flow control equipment for the petroleum industry. ISW is stocking NAVCO valves made by Cameron (whether new or surplus - or both - isn't indicated).

In a related area, flowmeters, a new report by Research and Markets (R&M) of Dublin, Ireland, forecasts a global compound annual growth rate for this equipment of 7.2 percent from 2014-19, when it reaches an estimated value of $7.9 billion. This market, as well, is driven by the petrochemical and chemical industries, as well as by the water and wastewater industries.

The report, titled "Flow Meters Market by Type - Global Trends and Forecast to 2019," cites growing populations and new investments in infrastructure and other projects in Asia-Pacific (especially India and China), the Middle East, and Africa as reasons for the expectations of market growth.

R&M reports that magnetic flowmeters accounted for most sales in 2013, around $1.18 billion, followed by coriolis flowmeters, which generated sales of about $1.02 billion. The company predicts that by 2019, however, coriolis flowmeters will surpass magnetic flow meters in sales value.

This shift in market dominance reflects an ongoing trend identified in the report by R&M: a preference among end-users for "smart" flowmeters such as the coriolis and ultrasonic versions, in place of conventional differential-pressure and positive-displacement meters.

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