The United States, Germany, Italy and Japan together accounted for approximately half of global valve shipments in 2006 in dollar terms. China, however, is rapidly becoming a key player in the valve industry.

Global demand for industrial valves is forecast to increase 4.4 percent annually through 2011, to $77.6 billion, according to “World Industrial Valves,” a report by Cleveland-based Freedonia Group Inc. Gains will be driven by the global economy, leading to increased fixed-investment activity in key valve markets such as the United States, China and Germany. Valve demand in the energy-production sector also will benefit from an increase in primary energy consumption in mature markets like North America as well as in developing valve markets such as Latin America.

The advanced nations of North America, Western Europe and the Asia/Pacific region comprise the mature markets for valves. Growth in valve demand in these areas will trail the world average through 2011, according to the report. By contrast, growth will be stronger in rapidly developing nations such as China, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and India. Advances in valve demand in these areas will be driven by healthy economic and fixed-investment growth. Also, an expanding market for more expensive automated valves and actuators will support overall gains in the United States, Japan and Western Europe.

In its report, the Freedonia Group also predicts the global market for automatic valves will outpace that for conventional valves due to the ongoing efforts of process manufacturers to improve operation efficiencies. The strongest gains will be registered in sales of separately sold automatic actuators, which are used together with standard valves to allow for automated valve function, and are less expensive than automatic control and regulator valves with actuators pre-installed. Still, conventional valves will account for 54 percent of total valves demand in 2011 due to the low cost relative to other highly engineered automatic valves.