MRC Global is one of the most successful trusted pipe, valve, and fitting (PVF) distributors in its space. This is a position that has been shaped – in large part – by its people. Stainless Steel World Americas had the pleasure of speaking with MRC Global’s Robert Nunn, Executive Director of Stainless Steel & Alloys, to learn more about how MRC Global continues to provide excellent value to its customers, and how it is playing a pivotal role in the energy transition.
By Sara Mathov
MRC Global is the leading global distributor of pipe, valves, fittings (PVF), infrastructure products and services to diversified end-markets including the gas utilities, down-stream, industrial and energy transition, pipeline, and transmission infrastructure. The company distributes a breadth of products in a wide range of alloys including stainless steel with sizes ranging from ½” to 24”.
Stainless Steels in the Energy Transition
Integral to MRC Global’s business and Sustainability strategies is selling high-quality products that control the flow of liquids and gases in a safe and environmentally responsible manner, reducing the likelihood of leaks into soil, air, or water. MRC Global provides these products, including those made from stainless steel and alloys, across all of its sectors and, most recently, to support energy transition projects.
“Most green energy requires pipes, valves and fi ttings to move the product,” said Nunn. “MRC Global provides a lot of this product with the appropriate types of specifi cations, such as stainless steels and exotic alloys.” Renewable fuels and jet fuel are in high demand which must meet the same product requirements used for traditional hydrocarbon applications. “Stainless steel is predominantly used. Often 304L and 316L grades are the alloys for pipes and fittings in renewable applications,” explained Nunn. As for other energy transition projects, “it is relatively early days for investments in carbon capture projects, but we have been seeing similar stainless materials required there as well. At times, higher grades such as duplex and nickel alloys are also being used.”
Stainless steel pipe and fittings are required when more extreme process conditions such as high temperature and fluid properties that induce corrosion are introduced into the application. “Once you increase the factors of temperature and a corrosive environment, the higher-grade alloys are needed,” said Nunn. Both traditional and green energy processes require products that can accommodate high temperature and corrosive environments, and the lifespan of a stainless or alloy pipe is much longer than traditional steel pipe, making it more durable and cost-effective over the long-term.
“During the COVID-19 crisis, domestic demand for renewable energy (boilers for biomass power generation, waste-to-energy boilers, etc.) remained strong,” explained Mr. Onishi. “However, due to the worsening situation in Ukraine, prices for raw materials such as nickel have soared, as have costs for energy such as electricity and gas, as well as other secondary materials. Despite this, the company has continued improving sales prices in Japan and overseas.”
Another common trend Nunn has seen in refi neries is their commitment to upgrading the alloys they use, commonly known as ‘alloying up,’ which also improves their long-term risk for unwanted carbon emissions. “By pre-emptively replacing outdated materials, refi neries can prevent unnecessary downtime and improve the non-release of carbon emissions. This is the direction that some of our customers are taking, and MRC Global provides materials that allow them to succeed.”
“MRC Global has a dedicated approach when it comes to stainless steel and alloy products,” continued Nunn. “We have a team of subject matter experts (SMEs) in these products, along with an extensive inventory offering. Whatever the customer requires, our team of SMEs can provide solutions.”
Although the pricing of stainless steel has stabilized, there continue to be changes in the market due to the price of nickel, shortened lead times, and reductions in surcharges. MRC Global continues to navigate these obstacles, putting the customer fi rst and delivering on its promised deliveries.
One of the ways that MRC Global accomplishes this is by carrying an extensive stainless steel pipe and fitting inventory, which complements its broad product offering of stainless steel valves and carbon steel PVF.
“MRC Global can provide products per customer specifications, as well as an alternative solution if requested. Anything beyond the standard specifications that may be required can be sourced by our team. We also offer additional services, such as positive material identification (PMI), which we perform internally, and we can secure third parties for any additional services required by the customer.”
MRC Global prides itself on its Approved Manufacturers List (AML) and makes this available to its contracted customers. For a vendor to be accepted onto MRC Global’s AML, it must pass an extensive audit performed by its internal Quality Team. “Quite often end users will consult us when a problem arises because they know that we perform comprehensive assessments on manufacturers. This is how we make certain that our products will perform as needed.”
“As our customers continue to invest in the energy transition, we are dedicated to supporting their green energy and decarbonization initiatives. This commitment is evidenced by the volume of stainless steel and alloy products that we inventory and our investment in SMEs who support those industries,” said Nunn. “These projects require a wide range of alloys, starting with stainless steel and chrome, up to nickel alloys. We were part of this effort in the initial stages of energy transition, and we will continue to be involved.”
Nunn believes that the most fascinating thing about renewables is the diversity of alloys that are used. “The corrosiveness and temperatures of the application determines what alloys need to be used. Many of these projects require multiple material types, a lot of which may be used for outside storage stations as well as the actual processing units.”
Nunn is enthusiastic about the future of MRC Global. “There are so many exciting opportunities ahead, and we are at the center of the renewable energy sector, supporting customers with a wide range of products and a deep knowledge of the business. MRC Global is committed to being the supplier of choice for stainless and alloy products and to advancing the growth of renewable energy.”