World demand to rise 3.5% annually through 2019
Global demand for steel pipe is forecast to advance 3.5 percent per annum through 2019 to 79.7 million metric tons, with growth paced by continued strong increases in developing markets. The pace of gains will decelerate from that of the 2009-2014 period as construction activity slows in China and numerous other developing countries, and oil and gas exploration moderates in North America after a period of rapid growth.
Equipment manufacturing market to see fastest gains
The oil and gas market is the dominant application for steel pipe. Steel makes up the vast majority of pipe used in oil and gas transportation and especially production due to its high strength and pressure and thermal resistance. Demand for oil and gas pipe saw healthy growth between 2009 and 2014, driven by growth in China and North America; however, advances are expected to decelerate because of slowing exploration and drilling due to already high production and lower oil prices.
Steel pipe used in equipment manufacturing is expected to see above-average growth through 2019. Although efforts to simplify automotive manufacturing and reduce the weight of finished products will check more robust demand advances, continued expansion in durable goods manufacturing will support strong growth. Structural steel will also see growth above the global average through 2019. Although slowing expansion in the oil and gas market (as structural steel pipe is often used in well construction) will limit advances, construction spending growth will drive demand.
Steel pipe also sees significant usage in construction markets, where it is used in a variety of applications, such as conduit, sewer, and drainage. However, unlike the oil and gas market, steel exhibits lower penetration in most applications due to price and performance advantages of other materials such as plastic.
Growth in China to slow but remain above global average
China, by far the world's largest national market, with 30 percent of global demand in 2014, was a primary driver of demand growth for steel pipe between 2004 and 2014. Expansion across all steel pipe markets, especially in OEM, structural, mechanical, and construction applications, sparked global steel pipe demand.