The colours and uses of MDPE explained

MDPE is used in dozens of different ways. Discover the different uses and colours of MDPE and where you use them.

MDPE pipes are a major product as, no matter what size contract you are working on, MDPE will always come into play whether it be an irrigation system, house build or even a hydro scheme. At JDP we offer a full range of pipeline products for water, gas and barrier pipe systems. Referred to as MDPE (medium density polyethylene) these plastic pipes are used as a replacement for traditional copper pipes, saving time and cost on installation.

Ultimately, anywhere where there is a tap, you are going to need a water supply so these products are a basic yet vital component in any project. From distilleries to construction sites MDPE is almost certainly playing a part, so it’s important to know the differences in the product we offer and where you can use them in your project.

Unsure whether you should use PE80, PE100, MDPE, HPPE or HDPE? Check out our guide to polyethylene pressure pipe materials that explains the differences between each material and where you should use them.


This lightweight pipe is available in coils of 25m, 50m, 100m and 150m for ease of use, and comes in sizes ranging from 20-63mm. The benefits of using MDPE over copper is that it won’t corrode, meaning it is ideal for delivering clean (potable) water services. It is also inert and so has a good resistance to a wide range of naturally occuring ground chemicals and doesn't support the microbiological growth of algae, bacteria or fungi in normal operating conditions.

Blue MDPE is used for below ground drinking water supplies under BS EN 12201. For distributing water above ground use black HPPE.

What is Alkathene Pipe and is it different to MDPE?

Blue and black MDPE products for water supply may also be referred to as alkathene, which was a commercial name for polyethylene first introduced by ICI in the 1930s. Today it is more commonly known as MDPE.

Diameters of old alkathene pipe may differ to modern MDPE and may require a universal coupling adaptor - a fitting that joins standard MDPE to pipe of different-but-similar diameters.

Black MDPE

Black MDPE vs Blue MDPE - what's the difference?

Under BS EN 12201 plain black MDPE is used for above ground drinking water (potable) systems, whereas blue MDPE is used for drinking water systems below ground. Pushfit compression fittings are typically used in this application for sizes 20-63mm, and electrofusion fittings for larger diameters.

Under EN 13244 black HDPE can be used for industrial water systems as well as sewage pump mains - although in these applications you would typically use black HDPE with brown stripes. Only use electrofusion or butt fusion jointing methods in this application.

MDPE or HDPE - what material is used?

The polyethylene material used to manufacture black MDPE is actually high density polypropylene; technically the product is named black HDPE but the market and industry still refer to this product as black MDPE. The change was made to improve product quality with tough PE100 material, as black HDPE can be used for both drinking and industrial water supplies, while still being compatible with pushfit compression fittings as well as electrofusion and butt fusion joining methods.

It is not prone to rot, corrosion, or stress cracking making it suitable for the above ground conditions you would expect. Also available in sizes 20-63mm in coils of 25m, 50m 100m and 150m.

Just like blue MDPE the term black alkathene is known but not often used, and relates to the commercial name of polyethylene back in the early 20th century; black alkathene and black MDPE have been replaced with black HDPE.

Yellow MDPE

Yellow MDPE is used in below ground gas distribution networks often connected to properties through a meter box. It's suitable for both natural gas and LPG, and comes in 25mm and 32mm sizes with an option of 50m or 100m coils.

PE80 coils are approved to GIS/PL2-2 and BS EN 1555-2 and used for new pipelines, network rehabilitation and pipe replacement. They have a solid wall that have a yellow outer colour and black inner colour. This helps identify if the pipeline could be damaged and should be replaced.

Barrier pipe MDPE

Barrier pipe

This pipe is a multi-layer system which includes a black PE inner core, a protective aluminium layer and an outer layer of PE. The pipe is mainly blue but will have brown vertical lines running along the pipe and an internal black colour. It is used to eliminate the migration or pollutants into drinking water through the clever combination of the 3 layers within the pipe. This is especially useful in:

  • construction near industrial zones
  • agricultural areas
  • cemeteries
  • landfill sites
  • petrol stations
  • military land
  • crossings at rivers
  • brownfield development sites
  • areas which are prone to flooding

Industrial water/ Sewage pump MDPE

Industrial MDPE

MDPE which is black with two orange lines running along is to be used above or below ground, to carry industrial or sewage pump main water.

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