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PVC pipes - 50 Years of Service in Australia and still flowing strong

PVC pipes -  50  Years of Service in Australia and still flowing strong

PVC is an important material of choice for pressure pipeline applications throughout the world, and technological advancements have introduced different use PVC pipes to the Australian market – PVC-M and PVC-O.

Unplastisicised PVC (PVC-U) was first developed in the 1930's and came to be used in pressure pipelines from the 1950's, firstly in Europe, followed by the United States and then Australia since the 1960's. The product has a well-known and respected performance history in pipeline applications.[1]

More recently technological advancements in PVC pipes have led to the subsequent development of Modified PVC (PVC-M) and Oriented PVC pipes (PVC-O). Australian was an early adopter of PVC-O pipe with local manufacturing commencing in 1984. Australia has continued to be at the forefront of significant advances for PVC-O pipe when local manufacturers developed the process that would significantly increase the output of PVC-O pipe. From this work came the in-line orientation process, where a feedstock pipe from the extruder is stretched over a mandrel or plug under tightly controlled conditions to produce a bioriented PVC pipe. More recently, an alternative process has been developed that orients feedstock pipe by inflating with pressurised hot air. These processes havebecome the standards for production of PVC-O pipes around the world. Australia continues to have the largest PVC-O pipe manufacturing capacity in the world.

As the original PVC pipes installed across Australia start to exceed 50 years’ service, there is no reason to assume these pipes are no longer providing good service. Several analytical studies have estimated that PVC pipe can have a useful life of over 100 years.

Late last year, pipe manufacturer Iplex Pipelines opened a PVC recycling centre at their Sydney factory in response to customer enquiries. However as noted by the Plastics Industry Pipe Association of Australia Limited (PIPA), “As PVC pipe has an anticipated service life in excess of 100 years, research conducted by Iplex and the Plastics Industry Pipes Association of Australia has revealed very little waste PVC pipe product from demolition sites is finding its way to landfill. In the decades ahead, this situation may change but for now most PVC pipe entering the waste stream is short offcut pieces and surplus unused new product.

“The resin used in the manufacture of PVC pipe and fittings is 100% recyclable and a valuable resource that deserves a second life.”

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Top 10 Benefits of PVC Pipes

Top 10 Benefits of PVC Pipes
  1. Corrosion Resistance
    Escalating deterioration of water pipelines due to corrosion in old iron pipes threatens our ability to provide safe drinking water and is a complicated and costly problem across many regions of the world, including Australia.

    PVC pipes are invulnerable to underground external corrosion as well as internal pipe corrosion. So while certain pipe manufacturers continue to explore “solutions” to corrosion – because their materials are affected by it - PVC remains indisputably resistant to it.

    Corrosion in old technology pipes is also the number one reason for burst water mains – a problem that plagues most Councils across Australia. Not a day goes by that the morning radio doesn’t announce traffic diversions and road closures in place as a result of burst water mains and their impact on the surrounding area.  Last year even saw the report of sinkholes developing from burst water mains swallowing cars and property.

    PVC pipe has been proven to have the lowest pipe break rate when compared to cast iron, ductile iron, concrete, steel and asbestos cement pipes.

  2. Chemical resistance
    PVC pipes exhibit excellent resistance to a wide range of chemical reagents and disinfectant chemicals.

    With low risk of materials eating through the pipe, PVC pipes are highly suitable for most water infrastructure projects as they can convey most strong acids, alkalis and aqueous solutions (except those which are strongly oxidising), aliphatic hydrocarbons, fluorides, photographic and plating solutions, brine, mineral oils, fats and alcohols.

  3. Reduced Failures and Blockages in Wastewater Pipelines
    A major concern within any pipeline system is pipe blockages, a costly and complicated problem that can cause untold damage and hours of repairs.

    Slow flowing water through a pipeline creates more opportunity for potential blockages and failures in a system with many connections.

    The extremely smooth lining of PVC pipe - when compared to a copper, clay or concrete pipe - reduces water flow resistance and ensures that water reaches its intended destination with proper pressure.

    PVC piping allows water to flow freely and maximises water pressure. The increase flow of PVC pipes also prevents build up in sewage and waste water systems.

  4. Quicker Installation time
    The results of a recent The European Plastic Pipes and Fittings Association (TEPPFA) field test found that PVC pipe installation was over 30% faster (3 hours and 19 minutes vs 5 hours and 12 minutes) than the same size concrete pipe

    That’s a time saving of 1 hour and 53 minutes on a sewer PVC pipe installation of two chamber trench 90 metres long, 2 metres deep with a diameter of 300mm. View the testing video and download the full report here.

  5. Smooth bore allows high flow rates for water transfer
    PVC pipes should be considered for water supply pipeline projects because they outperform alternative materials in performance and cost effectiveness. Their smooth bore allows high flow rates, reducing the potential for blockage and failures.

    PVC pipes have a proven track record of excellent long-term performance and offer extended, trouble free service life.

  6. Leak free joints
    PVC pipe’s ultra-smooth surface reduces pumping costs and its leak-free joints eliminate water loss – which can be up to 40 per cent in some old-technology and corrosion-prone piping networks.

    Elastomeric seals allow PVC pipes to be quickly and easily joined, without the need for electricity or protection from the weather.

  7. Long service life
    PVC Pipes have a proven performance record of over 50 years in Australia, while overseas studies show the life expectancy of PVC pipes to be over 100 years.

    A new 2014 international water pipe study, which included testing on Australian PVC pressure pipes, has demonstrated the longevity. The combination of pipe examination and testing date in conjunction with previous pipe break studies and dig-up reports of pipes in service support PVC's longevity and performance in excess of 100 years.

    A major finding of the PVC Pipe Longevity Report is that water utilities can reduce water main breaks and operations and maintenance costs by including corrosion-proof PVC piping in their replacement programs. Earlier research by USU showed that corrosion of iron piping is a major problem for water systems and newer metallic pipes are experiencing failures more rapidly than older types because of their thinner walls.

  8. Lower cost
    PVC pipes offer significant cost savings for projects, even more so when installation, low breakage rates and life cycle costs are taken into consideration. The longevity of PVC pipes also means the pipes function more efficiently, reducing maintenance and ongoing work to the pipe making it more affordable over time.

    These lower material costs are coupled with lower installation costs because of increased productivity, the product's low weight and cheaper transportation expenses.

  9. PVC Pipes - Best pipeline choice for pipe under load
    PVC pipes are extremely flexible and can flex without breaking when loaded externally from soil weight and heavy duty traffic. Rigid pipes, such as those made of concrete, clay or ceramic are unable to flex when loaded and will experience wall crushing and collapse when their load limit is reached.

    When a PVC pipe encounters external loading, its diameter will begin to deflect. If the pipe is buried in the right supportive soil conditions, the stiffness of the soil combined with the pipe stiffness will resist the deflection.  Download report here

  10. Tree Root Intrusion Resistance
    Some pipe materials are more resistant to root intrusion than others. PVC pipe is more resistant to root intrusion because it has fewer joints. Because of their flexibility, the tightly fitting PVC joints are less likely to leak as a result of settlement of backfill around the pipe.

    Vitrified clay pipe is easily penetrated and damaged by tree roots. Concrete pipes also allow root intrusions to a lesser extent than vitrified clay pipe.
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Spotlight on PVC-O Pipes

PVC pipes have a number of inherent advantages for water pipeline projects over alternatives pipes such as PE, Concrete and Ductile Iron. These advantages include resistance to corrosion and chemical attack including water disinfectants, effect on water quality, smooth bore, excellent balance between strength, stiffness and flexibility, ease of installation, cost effectiveness, and recyclability.

The advent of PVC-O pipe has only enhanced these advantages. Australia has been at the forefront of these significant advances and has the largest PVC-O pipe manufacturing capacity in the world.

Numerous studies from around the world have demonstrated the superior properties and benefits of PVC-O pipe compared to all other pressure pipe options.

By realigning the PVC molecules through a process of biaxial orientation, the wall thickness of PVC-O pipes can be reduced by up to 50% while maintaining the same pressure as that of the traditional PVC pipe.

The orientation process imparts high strength at maximum material efficiency. The result is that PVC-O pipes are around twice the strength and possess ten times the impact resistance when compared to traditional PVC-U material.

The reduction in wall thickness of PVC-O also means PVC-O pipes will have significantly larger bore. This enables PVC-O pipe to have the highest flow capacity of all pressure pipes, allowing it to move more water faster than alternate piping systems. The greater hydraulic capacity represents a potential saving in energy consumption in transporting water when using PVC-O pipe, further enhancing its environmental credentials.

PVC-O pipe is manufactured with significantly less embodied energy and is more material efficient compared to other pipe options. It is the most eco-friendly pipe system in the world as it requires less energy to produce than conventional PVC-U and other pipe materials. It also uses less energy in service than all other pipe types.

Considering their relative low weight, PVC-O pipes are strong and durable. It stays strong through a range of temperatures, resulting in fewer burst pipes and other maintenance issues.

David Chasis, editor of Sustainable Piping Systems, applauds the significant development that PVC-O brings to the international piping industry.

“There has not been a more significant development in the North American piping industry in the last 10 years than the advent of biaxially oriented PVC. Whether one considers quality, installed costs or an environmentally light footprint, no other piping system can quite compare to super pipe – PVCO.”

PVC-O pipe has a number of technical, performance, commercial and environmental advantages over competing pressure pipes such as ductile iron and PE. From a sustainability perspective, it is a clear winner.

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PVC Pipe sustainability

PVC is one of the most sustainable products on earth. PVC pipe requires less energy and fewer resources to manufacture than old-technology materials, and its production creates virtually no waste. Production of PVC pipe requires one-fourth the energy of concrete pipe and half that of iron pipe. PVC pipe manufacturing is also extremely efficient, with virtually 100 percent of the PVC compound being used.

Moreover, PVC pipe’s ultra-smooth interior surface reduces pumping costs and its leak-free joints eliminate water loss – which can be Sustainabilityup to 40 percent in corrosion-prone piping networks. But PVC pipe’s greatest environmental attribute is perhaps its exceptional durability and corrosion resistance – leading to less waste, better water quality and conservation, and lower costs for system maintenance and repair.

PVC leads all other piping materials in sustainability. Its durability, soundness, clean and energy efficient manufacture and transportation have made it the material of choice for water and wastewater applications.

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PVC-U Pipes- Ageless and Ever Green

Article with thanks to

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Australian testing demonstrates no pipe degradation after 30 years

A recent report from Utah State University Buried Structures Laboratory by Steven Folkman, titled PVC Pipe Longevity Report, used an Australian case study to prove the long-term service of PVC pipes and to assess any deterioration or degradation in their service. Below is an excerpt from the case study used in the report to demonstrate the 100+ year benchmark standard for PVC Pipes.

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International Study Supports PVC Pipe Performance and Longevity 100+ Years

A new study published by Utah State University buried structures laboratory has taken a comprehensive review of the longevity of PVC pipes in service in a range of countries – including Australia. The conclusion?

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PVC Pipe part of a sustainable future

Many people forget that PVC pipe and conduit has been around since 1960 in Australia. The origins of Vinidex and Iplex also date back to the early 60’s. Electrical conduits, then sewer pipes were made using PVC followed in the mid 60’s by pressure pipe. The regional infrastructure projects of Victoria and NSW were the first to take advantage of this great new pipe system. The gas industry also used PVC in WA, Victoria and NSW.

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Federal funding for Stormwater and Reuse Projects need to include PVC Pipes for Sustainability

Water week recently announced Federal funding for stormwater and reuse projects, allocating more than $42million in funding for nine innovative and sustainable stormwater harvesting and re-use projects to help secure was supplies in urban areas across Australia. ( 22 August 2012

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Co-Founder and Former leader of Greenpeace, Dr. Patrick Moore speaks on the benefits of PVC Pipes

My esteemed colleague in the US Bruce Hollands, Executive Director of the PVC Pipe Association recently posted an article about Co-Founder and Former Leader of Greenpeace, Dr Patrick Moore speaking out on the benefits of PVC Pipe.  Greenpeace are long time critics of PVC so it’s an important statement that Dr Moore has come out in PVCs defence. View the full interview here. 

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