Aluminum takes aim at steel drill pipe in battle for market share

Jun 14, 2009 | 07:00 PM |

The battle between steel and aluminum for market share has been raging for years in the auto industry.

But the warfare between steel and the light metal is also playing out in the drill pipe sector, where aluminum is quietly waging an insurgency against steel.

If you’ve paid attention to the volleys in auto, you know the basic outlines of the argument already. The aluminum industry reasons that while light metal may be more expensive initially, the extra cost is more than offset over time by savings recovered elsewhere over the life of the platform or rig. And if you focus on the long-term, the light metal is cheaper than steel, the reasoning goes.

The steel industry, not surprisingly, doesn’t see it that way.

Or that’s what Perspectives thought we would be writing. In this case, however, many in the steel industry aren’t even aware of aluminum drill pipe. And if they are, they have little to no experience with it.

“What do you use aluminum drill pipe for? Do they drill for bauxite?” quipped Roger Schagrin, a trade attorney with Schagrin Associates. “If it’s a competitive product, I can tell you that in 25 years of working on things, I’ve never heard of an aluminum-type OCTG product.”

Schagrin is currently at work on the trade case filed by domestic producers against Chinese imports of oil country tubular goods (OCTG). He specializes in pipe-related trade cases and is also general counsel to the Committee on Pipe and Tube Imports. But Perspectives doesn’t mean to pick on Schagrin. We spoke with analysts and even oil field services firms who knew little if anything about aluminum drill pipe.....

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