Sizabantu’s major PVC-O pipe venture


PHOTO: The Molecor (Sizabantu-Molecor JV) plant in the Richards Bay IDZ is a major project with an estimated investment value of over R300-million

ONE of the biggest ventures in the plastic pipe manufacturing sector in South Africa to date is taking shape at Richards Bay on the KZN north coast.

The project by Sizabantu Piping Systems (SPS) involves the installation of a PVC-O (oriented PVC) pipe manufacturing plant in cooperation with technology partner Molecor Canalizaciones of Spain in a project with an estimated value of R300-million. The Sizabantu plant is based at the Richards Bay Industrial Development Zone, where a number of the pipe extrusion lines have already been commissioned. Sizabantu’s cooperation with Molecor commenced in 2013, with the construction of the plant continuing over the past year and nearing completion.

PVC-O pipe is now regarded as a genuine rival to steel pipe in the high-pressure bulk water area. In this application, where water is conveyed from reservoirs to municipal pumping/distribution points, pressures in the pipeline can exceed 25 bar, which plastic pipe has up till recently not been able to match. As a consequence, that area of the water reticulation network remained the domain of steel pipe, but the TOM® PVC-O bi-axially orientated PVC pipe technology from Molecor allows for the manufacture of pipe which is able to match these pressures.

The fact that the PVC-O pipe is far lighter than the steel version presents a major advantage for installation. Other advantages are that PVC-O pipe does not need to be coated, as is required for steel; the fact that cathodic protection with copper electrodes is not required (as electrical charges can build up on steel pipe) and the fact that PVC-O pipe does not need to be welded are definite advantages for the new plastic pipe.

TOM® PVC-O pipe manufactured in the Sizabantu-Molecor venture has been used in a number of large water supply contracts around the country so far. The TOM pipe is being used in potable water applications too.

Pipe diameters from 215-350mm as well as 500mm are being produced, and a system for 630mm production is being installed at the Richards Bay plant as SPS gears up.

Put simply, Molecor’s technology involves a stretching process under heat and pressure in a mould, downstream from the extruder haul-off, in which molecular orientation of the polymer takes place, creating a far stronger pipe. The TOM® PVC-O pipe provides a level of molecular orientation that enables the pipe to match the performance of steel. The orientation process in the mould also applies to the pipe bell, which previous orientation technologies had not succeeded in achieving, as a result of which previous versions of PVC-O pipe did not make the cut for high-pressure use.

Molecor already operates plants in north and south America, Australia and Asia. The introduction of its TOM PVC-O pipe in South Africa “proved to be an instant success and is now recognised as an acceptable alternative option for traditional pipe materials, used in bulk water and potable water reticulations,” said Molecor MD Don Coleman.


‘Helping the people’

Sizabantu was formed in Kwazulu-Natal in 2002 when it was appointed as the official distributor for Marley Pipe Systems. It has since grown to the point where it now operates 10 outlets around the country, plus branches in Mozambique and Swaziland, and has become one of the leading complete piping solutions suppliers in Southern Africa.

The name Sizabantu, which means ‘helping the people’ in Zulu, was selected by company founder Dave King, after spotting a rural spaza shop with this creative name. Sizabantu Piping Systems has applied that ethos in its business culture, where staff have a vested interest in the success of the business and the company’s managers around the region are shareholders too.

SPS has in fact become one of the top pipe and pipe component supply businesses in Southern Africa, so the plan appears to be working.