Paying The Piper
By Michael LeGault, editor
The premier pipe manufacturer in Canada, and one of the top 20, in terms of sales, in North America, IPEX has been riding a steep growth slope that is leaving many of its competitors in the dust. It n...
The premier pipe manufacturer in Canada, and one of the top 20, in terms of sales, in North America, IPEX has been riding a steep growth slope that is leaving many of its competitors in the dust. It now has 18 North American plants. IPEX business development director Gary Rent attributes the company’s success to good market conditions and broader acceptance of plastic in challenging pipe applications.
“There’s a new generation of engineer and specification people who are more familiar with the benefits of plastic,” says Rent. “Plastic pipe is no longer a new product and there is a history of performance for it.” He also believes that the credibility and reputation of the Canadian plastic piping industry in general, and IPEX’s business in particular, has been enhanced by the availability of third-party testing to certified standards by institutes such as the Canadian Standards Association
Business that has spurred expansion at IPEX includes new applications in industrial piping, electrical and optical fibre conduit and water and sewer service. Also, it has recently started to manufacture gas pipe at its St. John, NB facility. The pipe, which is a new entry for the company, required an expansion at the plant and is being used to supply the oil and gas development projects in Atlantic Canada. Rent says IPEX’s affiliation with its owner, Britain-based Glynwed International, a strong player in gas piping markets, helped support its entry into this business.
IPEX has also begun to manufacture the largest diameter PVC pipe in the world. The 48 in. diameter pipe is produced at its Edmonton, Alta. plant on an American Maplan twin-screw extruder. The pipe, which weighs 260 kg/m, is primarily being used in Alberta, Saskatchewan and other parts of the west to transport water. Rent says making the large diameter pipe required a significant investment and was not without risk.
“We were partly led into the market by irrigation people who were asking for larger and larger plastic pipe systems. In a case like this you know there’s a certain market, but the question is can you grow and bring enough product to new markets to reasonably re-coup your investment.”
Rent says the venture demonstrates the importance IPEX places on innovation. The competition, however, has taken notice.
“Having pioneered the larger size pipes, some U.S. companies are jumping in behind us,” Rent says. “They haven’t caught up with us in terms of size or number of types of pipe we offer, however once you identify markets others will quickly follow.”