Cold Snap Hits Chemical Industry

photo shows view from the blog office

The current severe cold snap, affecting much of the Northern Hemisphere, is starting to have a significant impact on chemicals manufacturing.

All manufacturers are well aware of the need for robust winterisation programmes and most plants have well rehearsed procedures which can be implemented as soon as the mercury drops but this year, even the best procedures cannot address all of the issues being encountered.

China has been particularly impacted. Lower operating rates are reported across a number of crackers due to a combination of naphtha shortages and power supply problems. There are also severe transportation problems, particularly in Northern China.

In Europe, some crackers are reporting reduced rates, major polymer producers have reported operating problems and transportation is difficult in some regions. In the UK, many producers have interruptible gas supply contracts, which oblige producers to cut back consumption when national gas demand is high. There are also localised reports of staff having difficulties to get in to work, due to road transport difficulties.

Salt producers are working flat out. In the UK, the Salt Union reports that even though the mine has been working at capacity since mid-December, it is not able to sustain the unprecedented level of repeat orders and is working with the authorities to prioritise deliveries.

With the cold weather expected to last for quite some time, the industry has yet another challenge to deal with as we start the new decade.

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