Plastics Group in Demand

With the use of plastic pipes growing, the Gulf Plastics Pipe Academy aims to maximise their benefits to business. GPPA managing director Robert Lawrence outlines its strategies.

Why was the Gulf Plastics Pipe Academy (GPPA) established?

The GPPA was launched at the Dubai Plast Pro conference in April 2007, following a year of preparations. Its mission is to promote the use of specified plastics pipe systems and good installation practices for the sustainable development of the greater Middle East Region.

It developed from a concern that the plastic pipe industry had reached a stage where policy and strategy had to be industry wide and that the entire value chain had an interest in promoting quality, consistent design and sound installation methods.

The region has a particularly harsh environment and co-operation of stakeholders to solve the resulting problems was an obvious step.

Who does the GPPA serve and/or represent?

The GPPA seeks to represent all stakeholders in the plastic pipe value chain. The main materials represented are polyvinyl-chloride (PVC), polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP) and other specialist thermoplastics.

We have already signed up interest from the polymer producers right through to the pipes and fittings makers, designers, installers and system owners. We are also involving the machinery manufacturers, welding equipment makers and suppliers of special additives.

What is the GPPA’s purpose?

The GPPA forms a powerful lobby group to look after the interests of all on the value chain. Its broad objectives are encapsulated in its mission statement, but we have more detailed aims, including information sharing, standardisation, quality marking and giving the end users confidence in plastic pipes.

Plus, we have a responsibility to raise the awareness of the environmental issues that relate to the use of hydrocarbon products such as plastics.

The GPPA will (and indeed has already) concerned itself with the direction of research within the region. We believe that the universities should take note of what the industry and the end users need to tailor their research accordingly.

We also want to see resources put into developing innovative uses for plastic pipe.

In which countries does the GPPA operate?

We hope to co-ordinate training, standardisation and quality marking throughout the greater Middle East region from North Africa to the Gulf, and to South Africa.

What were the outcomes of the recent general forum?

We have put together several formation teams to prepare for the first General Assembly to be held in 2008. We have already secured the GPPA logo and work on the Constitution and Code of Practice is in the final stages.

Items such as the makeup of the main board, fee structure, training programmes and policies on standardisation will be dealt with by the formation teams.

How will the GPPA serve its members and the overall MEP sector?

The GPPA is concerned with the training and certification of welders and technicians. We also have an obligation to educate engineers in the design of thermoplastic pipes, something that is not always covered adequately in undergraduate courses.

The GPPA will be a forum for technical discussion and we will encourage seminars and workshops throughout the region. We have already held seminars where we introduce non-metal or cement pipe solutions to end users.

We will be running further training in repair techniques for plastic pipes during the next few weeks. These have been set up at the request of end users and will be run in co-operation with our members.

How can MEP professionals benefit from the GPPA?

The impact of a well organised organisation such as the GPPA far exceeds that of an individual. We believe that as a group we can contribute significantly to the development of sustainable infrastructure in the region.

In which sectors are plastic pipes in biggest demand?

Currently the biggest demand is PE for water distribution. District cooling is a growing market; transmission and distribution of treated sewage effluent for municipal irrigation is also a strong market for PE.

Gas distribution will become an important PE market as more communities are given a direct supply. Polypropylene is rapidly becoming the material of choice for hot and cold water services.

What are the main reasons for the rise in demand?

The main reason is their resistance to corrosion. Most plastics are effectively inert, they are therefore extremely durable and it is possible to calculate the useful life based on the material properties. This cannot be done with steel or concrete in our harsh environment.

For PE, where welded joints are used there is a major advantage in the lack of leakage.

How do you expect the region’s pipe sector to develop?

We expect the Middle East to follow the rest of the world, which is moving to plastics.

Sustainability means not wasting resources and using materials that last without major maintenance. These are as important here as anywhere and perhaps more so as water is a precious and expensive commodity throughout the region.