Glass fiber-reinforced polyester said to be “greenest” pipe material

This is according to a new thesis that looked at pipe material properties in respect of sustainability and environment.

Sweco Norway, part of Sweco AB, initiated a new thesis research that compared four pipe materials. The master student, Katrine Fjeldhus, conducted the study under supervision of two academic supervisors representing the Norwegian University of Life Sciences. The life cycle assessments were conducted with an analysis tool called SimaPro analysis.

Pipe materials investigated were ductile iron, PVC (polyvinyl chloride), GRP (glass fiber-reinforced polyester) and PE (polyethylene).

The purpose of the life cycle assessment was to consider the scope and distribution of environmental loads associated with pipe material, as a result of raw material extraction, material production, transportation, use and maintenance and finally waste management/disposal.

Material investigated account for more than 80% of the total length of the municipal water distribution network in Norway. In connection with the current, ongoing installation of new drinking water pipes in Norway, the same materials account for about 98% of the total pipe length. The life cycle analysis considered two pipe dimensions, 200mm and 600mm. The purpose of investigating two different dimensions was to uncover if environmental impacts changed significantly as the pipe diameter increased. Impacts pipe materials have in respect of climate change, including raw material, energy and transport. PVC stands out as having by far the largest contribution, both for raw materials and overall. GRP stands out in a positive way with a contribution of less than 2,000kg CO2-equivalents, which is about half of the emissions associated with ductile cast iron, representing the second smallest total contribution.

The thesis indicates that climate change is influenced by the use of pipe material, and that GRP provides lesser environmental load than other common pipe materials. PE and PVC accounts for the most significant negative impacts, according to the thesis.

For more information, click here to view the entire thesis.