Fire at Manufacturing Plant Cuts Production
In addition to ketchup packets, toilet paper, and rental cars, 2020 can also be blamed for another shortage: sanitizing tablets for pools and spas.
In August 2020, a fire at a BioLab plant in Louisiana supplying chlorine tablets left only one domestic supplier in operation. The closure spurred price hikes last summer, just as COVID-19 boosted demand for residential pools and spas. Lockdowns, travel restrictions, and fear of infection forced most vacationers to spend their time at home.
With production still hampered and the pandemic yet raging, are we going to see fisticuffs in the pool supply aisle? Probably not.
To be clear, chemical companies like Olin, OxyChem, and Westlake are still producing chlorine, but what pool owners colloquially call “chlorine” is actually a further-manufactured chlorine-containing product like calcium hypochlorite powder, sodium hypochlorite liquid, sodium dichloro-s-triazinetrione (dichlor) granules, or trichloro-s-triazinetrione (trichlor) tablets. The BioLab fire impacted only the supply of trichlor tablets.
The temporary hamstringing of domestic trichlor tablet production and resultant high prices will drive many pool owners and pool maintenance companies to alternate chlorine chemicals. It also provides a rare opportunity for importers of foreign trichlor tablets. At least, it would have if it weren’t for the renewal of anti-dumping duties of 211% on Chinese imports of these products in 2020.
Opportunities Spring up for Water Treatment Systems Manufacturers
The forced reconsideration of sanitization method provides fleeting opportunity for suppliers of water disinfection equipment, such as:
- Salt chlorine generators – these products use electrolysis to create chlorine from salt water
- Ultraviolet (UV) systems, which emanate UV light into water, eliminating waterborne microorganisms
- Ozone emitters, which use ozone gas (a strong oxidizer) to sanitize water and oxidize harmful chemicals and minerals.
- Reverse osmosis systems which purify water, though this method is less popular due to its high cost and large amounts of water wasted.
However, these systems are not without their cons. Salt chlorine generators represent the only competing equipment that completely eliminates demand for chlorine tablets, but can require hundreds of pounds of pool salt. Meanwhile, UV, ozone, and reverse osmosis systems only remove microorganisms and harmful substances inside the pool filter. The pool water still needs to be chlorinated for residual sanitization. Furthermore, these systems can have significant up-front cost, limiting demand in the residential market.
Commercial and municipal pools are expected to be less impacted by the tablet shortage, as these pools generally employ cleaning systems that use a liquid chlorine chemical.
Though consumers may not have ketchup packets in their lives for a while, the availability of other options for pool sanitization systems and alternate forms of chlorine is reassuring for those hoping to enjoy their residential pools this summer. One thing is certain: summer isn’t canceled, but the price is likely to increase.
Want to Learn More?
For more information on demand for pools and spas, see Global Pools & Spas, a study released by The Freedonia Group.
For more information from the Freedonia Focus collection of reports, see the following released by Freedonia Focus Reports: