What is Poly Pipe and how does it relate to HDPE?

28 September 2020

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High density polyethylene (HDPE) is a thermoplastic polymer produced from ethylene, and is the material used to make Poly Pipe, also known as PE.

First developed in Europe and the United States in the early 1930s low density polyethylene was initially used as a coating for underwater cables during World War II, however the high density polyethylene technology used in Poly Pipe today only entered the market in 1951. 

Poly Pipe has been manufactured in Australia since the 1950s, starting out as a small diameter pipe solution for rural and irrigation projects, as well as some industrial works. Over the past 60 years its popularity and number of applications across a range of industries has grown, due to its wearability, flexibility and ease of installation in comparison to alternative products, such as PVC or concrete pipes.

Poly Pipe is now used across a number of industries for a range of applications, including:

  • infrastructure and civil pipelines;
  • pressure water and sewerage;
  • rising mains;
  • fire mains;
  • mining and process piping;
  • gas reticulation mains;
  • treatment plants; and
  • gas and methane collection.

How is Poly Pipe made?

HDPE Poly Pipe is made with Polymer Resin, which is extracted from the polymer bean, melted down, extruded, stretched and cooled under a vacuum to achieve a perfectly rounded pipe.

Being derived from a natural resin product not only makes Poly Pipe flexible, due to its bendability, it is also non-toxic and as such, the only environmentally sustainable or “green” piping product on the market.

Why are the benefits of using Poly Pipe?

As HDPE is a light weight material and has excellent chemical resistance, Poly Pipe is incredibly versatile across a number of applications.

It’s fully weldable, which means you don’t have to rely on glue or rubber joints that can cause leaking and cracking overtime.

The material is also naturally bendable, making it incredibly flexible, easy to maneuver and manipulate, and allows manufacturers to create larger and longer pipes (up to 12 and 20 metres long), as well as coiled pipes for specific applications.

Poly Pipe is also naturally UV stable, making it perfect for Australia’s hot climate, particularly in remote and arid terrain, such as mining sites.

Because of this versatility, flexibility, strength and durability, Poly Pipe lasts for over 100 years in most environments without pitting, corroding or cracking, making it the most cost effective piping product on the market over time.

What types of Poly Pipe are there, and what should I use?

The grade and density of Polymer Resins has improved overtime through advances in technology and resin manufacturing, enabling larger Poly Pipes to be extruded. 

Poly Pipe products in Australia started with PE30, then PE50 then PE80, which is also referred to as MDPE. Now the top of the line Poly Pipe worldwide is PE100. 

The white coextrusion layer pipe has also been a very successful innovation in recent years, especially for the hot Australian climate.

At Advanced Piping Systems we stock P100 or P100 RC (rapid crack resistant) piping products. 

The P100 is now the industry standard Poly Pipe, which has all of the benefits of any premium Poly Pipe product, while the P100RC is a new product on the market which claims to be even more resistant to cracking than the premium product.

What is the most surprising benefit of Poly Pipe?

The durability and flexibility of the material makes Poly Pipe one the the best and most trustworthy products available on the market.

Because it’s a naturally flexible, elastic material it is often chosen for use when earthquake proofing buildings, waterways and other major industrial projects.

Following the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, HDPE and Poly Pipe became the number one product used for rebuilding and replacing the damaged mains piping system and other key infrastructure throughout the city.

What are the best applications for Poly Pipe?

Poly Pipe is a premium product that can be used on a range of jobs in a number of ways, however it’s durable material and trenchless application has most recently shown it to be the superior product for municipal water ways.

By pulling long welded strings of Poly Pipes through holes below the ground, which can be bored by horizontal drilling machines, Poly Pipe can effectively be installed avoiding the need for open trenches. 

This not only reduces disturbances to the public and property in city areas, it also prevents any unnecessary environmental impacts in rural and remote applications.

In addition to this trenchless application, a study conducted by the Plastic Pipe Institute (PPI) in Irvine, Texas, and Jana Laboratories in 2009, confirmed that the standard 100 year life expectancy for Poly Pipe can also be applied to municipal potable water systems. 

“One hundred year service life exceeds typical expectations; fifty years is widely accepted as the usual benchmark,” Tony Radoszewski, Executive Director of PPI.

“Polyethylene has been successfully used for water pipe in Europe and North America since the late 1950’s due to its leak-free joints, durability, resistance to galvanic corrosion, and long-term cost effectiveness. 

“This research, along with analytical projects conducted over the years by our association and other entities, overwhelmingly provides evidence demonstrating the superiority of PE pipe systems over historically-used materials.”

Because of this, Poly Pipe is now seen as the best practice material of choice for rebuilding and renovating old pipelines, particularly for urban waterways.