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Nation’s tube and pipe mills still expanding business

Oct 31, 2013 | 08:00 PM | Bill Beck

Tags  Energy production, greenfield, United States, Axis Pipe & Tube, pipe and tube, Bill Beck

Rapidly increasing energy production in North America is fueling a boom in the expansion of steel tube and pipe mills. The latest entrant in the tube and pipe sweepstakes is Axis Pipe & Tube Inc., which announced in late August that it intended to build a 300,000-ton-per-year facility in Bryan, Texas, to make energy-related tubular products to meet growing demand in the U.S. oil and natural gas industries.

The Texas facility will employ 285 people when it begins production in mid-2014. Axis Pipe & Tube is owned by Prolamsa Inc., which was formed by Mexican producer Grupo Prolamsa SA de CV in Houston in 1996. Grupo Prolamsa, which began operating in Mexico as a manufacturer of metal shapes for doors and windows, expanded into steel tubular shapes in 1961. The company’s pipe and tube production helped build the Mexican and South American petroleum industries and became Grupo Prolamsa’s primary business during the last quarter of the 20th Century.

In 2001, Grupo Prolamsa built a state-of-the-art facility in Escobedo, Mexico, just outside Monterrey. Expanded in 2006-07, the facility is a world-class tube and pipe producer serving customers in Mexico and the United States.

In early 2009, Prolamsa Inc. began manufacturing, stocking and shipping products from its new U.S. facility in Laredo, Texas. Even though the American economy was struggling at the time, Prolamsa recognized the opportunity for tube and pipe in the nearby Barnet and Eagle Ford shale plays.

Now, Axis Pipe & Tube is just one of several greenfield expansions announced in the United States in recent years. In early October, IT-TRI LLC announced plans to build a $68-million steel tube and pipe facility on 75 acres in Trinity, Ala. The community had been devastated by a late-summer announcement that International Paper Co. intended to close a mill in the area, and the announcement that the tube and pipe facility would break ground this fall was welcome news.

According to the company, the new facility will source its steel from U.S. Steel Corp. in Birmingham and the Nucor Corp. mill in nearby Decatur.

Meanwhile, Youngstown, Ohio-based V&M USA Corp.’s new $650-million small-diameter pipe mill is up and running. The mill will serve energy companies exploring for shale gas and tight oil in the Marcellus shale in eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania.

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