“Green economy” offers opportunities for new business fields

Interview with Dr Gunther Voswinckel, President of the International Tube Association (ITA)

The tube industry wants to show at the Tube that the “Green Economy” is not just lip service, but lived practice. “Our industry has some interesting solutions to offer here,” explains Dr Gunther Voswinckel, President International Tube Association (ITA), in conversation with wire & Tube NEWS. In parallel, the tube industry also has to cope with challenges such as Russia’s belligerent invasion of Ukraine and a completely new assessment of the global economic system.

wire & Tube NEWS: The war in Ukraine is changing economies. What influence does it have on the tube market?

Dr Gunther Voswinckel: The coronavirus pandemic caused spikes in raw material prices and disrupted supply chains. Russia’s belligerent invasion of Ukraine is now causing a completely new assessment of the world economic system. Until now, the world economic system and its structures have been based on relatively free trade and the idea that economic networks prevent — or at least limit — warlike activities. This worldview is now being challenged, with unforeseen consequences for global free trade. Influencing trade flows is increasingly used to achieve political goals, making it harder for the industry to calculate. However, the reorganisation of the world’s oil and gas supply and global supply chains not only poses new challenges for our industry but also presents opportunities for future business.

Russia has a large pipe industry which has been largely upgraded in recent years to serve the national demand for pipes. As a result, the pipe imports that will be eliminated by the economic sanctions are no longer so significant that there will be major sales losses for the rest of the pipe industry.

wire & Tube NEWS: What opportunities do you see for the tube industry in China? The Asian country needs suitable environmental technologies – especially from the tube industry?

Dr Voswinckel: The worldwide trend towards a green economy offers opportunities for new business fields. This trend also applies to China, which plays a dominant role in 2021 with 55% of the global tube production capacity.

In this context, Messe Düsseldorf and the ITA jointly offer daily guided tours at Tube 22. These “ecoMetal trials” offer our exhibitors in the tube industry the opportunity to demonstrate their developments and solutions in terms of sustainability, energy efficiency and resource conservation to interested trade fair visitors. This allows the tube industry to demonstrate that the green economy is not just lip service but lived practice. Our industry has some interesting solutions to offer here.

wire & Tube NEWS: Why does the fracking market in the US still need pipe suppliers to expand?

Dr Voswinckel: The technological requirements for pipe systems used in fracking are very demanding and can only be served by pipe producers with the highest technological level. In contrast to conventional wells, which are essentially vertical, shale gas wells are drilled horizontally over long distances. Due to these requirements, the number of pipe producers that can serve this market is limited. The extraction of Europe’s shale gas could represent an interesting opportunity to significantly reduce dependence on Russian gas and limit environmentally damaging transports of LNG gas from the USA or Qatar — a country which is not without political controversy.

wire & Tube NEWS: What development do you expect for the pipe industry in Africa in the next few years, given the large reserves of raw materials?

Dr Voswinckel: The oil and gas deposits in North Africa have already prompted some raw material producers to set up pipe production facilities close to consumers. Although sufficient capacity has certainly been built up today, this trend will continue in line with demand. Considerations of producing green hydrogen in these regions will also lead to further demand for pipes.

wire & Tube NEWS: There are other interesting markets – which ones should the pipe industry definitely focus on?

Dr Voswinckel: The expectations for important market segments of the pipe market are quite promising. New demands in the energy industry, continued high demand from the construction industry, an automotive industry undergoing dynamic change and stable mechanical engineering offer sustainable business potential. Regions such as North America, Asia and Europe are currently markets with great sales potential. However, it must also be observed to what extent the current review of our global economic system structures will reveal further market potential. In particular, markets such as Central America, South America and Africa could come more into focus. In that same context, efforts towards increased independent self-sufficiency by individual markets, such as Europe, can also offer new market potential for the pipe industry.

wire & Tube NEWS: What impulses can Tube 2022 provide for the industry?

Dr Voswinckel: We are pleased to announce that the personal professional exchange is possible again. TUBE 2022, our world-leading trade fair in Düsseldorf, offers the tube industry an excellent opportunity to maintain and revive customer contacts and acquisitions. Exhibitors from the tube industry can present their innovative

products and production processes and discuss them intensively and personally with visitors from all over the world.

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