In 2022, the global pipes and tubes market share was approximately USD 185.47 billion. Not just that, it is estimated to grow at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of around 3.7% from 2023 to 2030 as per Grand View Research’s assessment. Construction of new petrochemical plants across the globe is likely to be the driving force behind the upward growth trajectory of the growth. A few of the top steel companies such as Nippon Steel Corporation, ArcelorMittal, Tata Steel, ThyssenKrupp AG, Hyundai Steel etc. will be navigating the pipe industry to the growth.
When it comes to India, as per Business World, steel pipes market size is estimated to be around Rs. 50,000-55,000 crores. Thanks to its versatility, steel is one of the most sought-after materials used in making railings, bars, wires, angles, auto components, roofing sheets, etc. Pipes & tubes are one of the most used variants of steel and demand for steel pipes is always high in India. It could be because stainless steel pipe, in particular, offers strength and durability.
In this article, let’s explore the different types of steel, their manufacturing process & how to choose the right type of steel.
History Of Steel Pipes
Before we proceed, let’s touch upon the history of steel pipes & evolution of pipes:
People have been using pipes for thousands of years, if not more. Most likely, the initial usage can be traced back to ancient agriculturalists who used pipes to take water from rivers and streams and use it in their fields.
Archaeologically speaking, some pieces of evidence suggest that in 2000 B.C., the Chinese employed reed pipes so that they could transport water to the locations of their choice. It has been discovered that other ancient civilizations used clay tubes.
Due to the availability of bamboo in tropical countries, tubes made of bamboo were used in the tropical regions to transport water. The 1st century A.D. witnessed the construction of lead pipes in Europe. In 1652, using underground pipes from hollow logs, the first waterworks were finally made in Boston.
The early 1800s witnessed the rise of the modern welded steel pipe. William Murdoch (also spelt as Murdock) invented a coal-burning lamp system in 1815. Murdock connected the barrels from discarded muskets together as he wanted to fit these lights in London. With the help of this continuous pipeline, he transported the coal gas. This lighting system was a great success and triggered demand for long metal tubes. This is where it gets interesting, in order to produce a sufficient number of tubes to fulfil this demand, a variety of potential inventors began working on developing/ discovering new pipe-making processes.
In 1824, James Russell patented a method for producing metal tubes with minimum time & money. In this method, firstly the metal was heated to the point it was malleable. The edges were folded together with the help of a drop hammer and welded. After that, the opposite edges of a flat iron strip were joined together to create tubes. The last step to finish the pipe was passing it through a groove and rolling mill.
Different Types Of Steel
Steel pipes can be categorised in two ways based on steel usage & steel manufacturing process.
1. Based On Steel Types: Typically, steel pipes are made using 4 variants of steel:
· Galvanised Steel: These pipes are primarily used for the purpose of water distribution because galvanised steel offers much-needed corrosion resistance, durability, and a long life span of up to (40-50 years). These pipes are difficult to cut thread and install, this is considered a major disadvantage of galvanised steel pipe.
· Carbon Steel: Available in seamless and seamed types, this is the most common variant of steel pipe. The proportion of used alloy material is on the lower side, carbon steel pipes offer ease of use when it comes to fabrication and welding. That is why these pipes are heavily used in various industries such as marine, and automotive, oil & gas for transportation. Extreme conditions can wreak havoc on these pipes making them unfit for any high-pressure usage.
· Alloy Steel: Used in refineries, chemicals, & petrochemical industries, these pipes are made with different metals such as manganese, copper, nickel, chromium, etc. The proportion of alloying elements varies as per the desired usage. This, in turn, adds flexibility as these pipes can be customized as per the requirement.
·Stainless Steel: True to its name, stainless steel comes with corrosion-resistance properties since 10%-13% chromium is added to steel in order to make it stainless. These pipes are used in water purification, medical, marine, and so on. As stainless steel is highly corrosion-resistant, stainless steel pipe is ideal for use in high pressures and extreme conditions.
2. Based On Manufacturing Methods: The initial process of making steel from iron ore is the same. Later on, steel pipes are manufactured in two different ways. Based on manufacturing methods, steel pipes are of two types.
a. Welded Pipes: These pipes are welded during the manufacturing process. The steps are listed below:
· Step 1: Steel slabs are heated.
· Step 2: The slabs are hot rolled into skelp.
· Step 3: The slabs are coiled and elongated.
There are three types of welded pipes:
· Longitudinal welded pipe
· Electric resistance welded pipe
· Spiral welded pipe
After welding SS pipes, there can be times when the metal residue is left. It can be sold at current scrap stainless steel prices.
b. Seamless Steel Pipes: As the name suggests, steel pipes which aren’t welded & have no welds on their surfaces are known as seamless pipes. To make these pipes, steel billets are heated and then moulded in a cylinder shape. These cylinders are further rolled to make seamless pipes.
Understanding the diverse types of steel and manufacturing methods empowers informed choices in selecting appropriate steel pipes for varied applications.
In The End
The global steel pipes and tubes market is poised for phenomenal growth, propelled by the construction of petrochemical plants. The Indian steel pipes market underscores steel’s versatility in a myriad of applications. The historical evolution of steel pipes, from ancient agricultural usage to state-of-the-art innovations like welded pipes, reflects their enduring significance.