|United States of America|
The gas utilities segment has been extremely robust in 2022 and we expect this momentum to continue for the foreseeable future. Year-over-year, gas utility companies in the U.S. have spent 20% more than in 2021. A significant amount of growth in this sector can be attributed to continuing infrastructure improvements and integrity projects, which have brought meter demand to an all-time high. After peaking in April of this year, housing starts continue to moderate due to inflation and high mortgage rates. Although many utility companies remain busy with meter changeout programs, we do not expect this activity to have a material impact on the overall level of growth for this sector.
In March 2022, PHMSA announced new rules for pipeline shut-off valves that aim to strengthen pipeline safety, reduce emissions and accelerate responses to pipeline ruptures. This critical ruling, which goes into effect in October 2022, applies to all new or replacement pipelines six inches in diameter or greater. We are prepared to assist our customers in meeting these requirements and encourage early discussions with our trusted experts.
With lead times in some product categories extending beyond 80 weeks, customers are looking for ways to mitigate risk in the supply chain. MRC Global’s proven distribution model is an effective solution against a tight supply chain. Pre-planning is critical for surety of supply and continued operations.
Downstream, Industrial & Energy Transition (DIET)
After a two-year downcycle in operational and capital expenditures, the downstream sector is experiencing a surge in activity fueled by capital project work and turnaround requirements that were delayed during the COVID-19 pandemic. The global transition to cleaner energy sources is also contributing to the growth in this sector, as demand for next-generation energy technologies continues to climb. Renewable energy projects announced in 2020 and 2021 are in full swing, and this acceleration will contribute to increased material demand. This heightened activity has been met with multiple cost and logistical challenges, including extended lead times brought on by global supply chain issues, such as labor, transportation, the Russian-Ukrainian conflict and rising energy costs. Long-range planning is essential to ensure timely execution. We encourage customers with upcoming projects to reach out early to their trusted MRC Global representative, who will engage our product and supply chain experts to assist in the planning process.
The oil and gas industry is maintaining steady growth after surviving the historic economic downturn of 2020 when oil prices dipped below zero. In June 2022, oil prices reached their highest levels since 2008, when West Texas Intermediate (WTI) soared above $120 per barrel and natural gas prices surged 130% since the beginning of 2022 to above $9 MMBtu. As our customers work through this recovery, we are seeing a continued customer focus on capital discipline and shareholder returns, operating within free cash flow and reducing carbon footprint through energy transition projects. Although spending is still below pre-pandemic levels, higher commodity prices are incentivizing North American producers to increase exploration and production investments. As of July 8, the U.S. rig count was up 57% over the same time last year2, reaching the highest level since the pandemic struck in 2020. There is also strong demand for liquified natural gas (LNG), especially in Europe, which is reducing its dependence on Russian oil and looking ahead to ensure enough supply for winter. Even so, headwinds will remain in this sector with the tight supply chains, higher pricing for goods and continued pressure in the labor market.
2. Baker Hughes: https://rigcount.bakerhughes.com
The outlook for our midstream pipeline sector remains steady, with activity picking up following delays due to COVID-19, funding and permitting. Modest well completion activity leading to increased volume on the production side will drive the need for additional pipeline and processing capacity, including new gas plant construction and larger diameter pipeline infrastructure construction. Growth in natural gas exports, which began with record highs in 2021, is expected to continue. Fueled, in part, by the Russian-Ukrainian conflict and increased demand in Europe, higher project activity is expected into 2025.
There are several pipeline projects on the horizon throughout the U.S., including takeaway capacity in the Permian Basin, Haynesville Shale and Marcellus Shale.