Olin Corp. announces supply halt due to fire, chemical leak, power failure & raw material disruptions
The nation’s largest manufacturer of chlorine has announced that unforeseeable circumstances will prevent them from completing orders.
Olin Corporation, a chemical company that bills themselves as “the No. 1 North American manufacturer of industrial bleach,” seeks to invoke the force majeure defense in not fulfilling their delivery contracts.
Though it is unknown exactly how this will impact the pool and spa industry, when the country’s largest manufacturer of chlorine says it can’t make good on its contracts, it’s a fairly safe bet that there will be ripple effects felt across all sorts of industries, including the pool and spa industry.
Certainly, what it means for pool service companies will depend on how long it takes Olin to resume normal operations. But clearly, if Olin cannot fulfill on it’s contracts, chlorine shortages are likely, followed by more price increases.
And just in time for summer. According to the company’s April 20 letter sent to customers: “Olin is experiencing ongoing disruptions across our system, including significant, unplanned production and power outages at our facilities in Plaquemine, Louisiana,
Olin Corporation is the country’s largest manufacturer of chlorine, caustic, EDC and PerTet. Pictured above is Louisiana’s Plaquemine and Grand Bayou facilities. Image credit Bic Magazine. and Freeport, Texas. Olin is working diligently to minimize the impact of these events and restore normal operations as quickly and safely as possible. The duration of these interruptions is uncertain at this time.”
In addition to liquid chlorine (sodium hypochlorite), the force majeure applies to caustic soda (soda ash), and hydrochloric acid (muriatic acid) and other chemicals not directly relevant to the pool and spa industry.
The announcement comes in the wake of the April 18 fire and chlorine leak in Plaquemine, Louisiana, near Baton Rouge. According to early estimates, more than 6,500 pounds of chlorine went into the air and onto the ground.
The chlorine release was Olin’s largest and longest. A contractor working for the EPA found that chlorine concentrations in “nonresidential areas near the facility in the hours following the incident” reached 1.4 parts per million, while readings in residential areas reached 0.4 ppm.
At 8:40 p.m., a fire broke out in a compressor that is used to turn chlorine from gas to liquid, according to Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality spokesman Greg Langley. The liquid chlorine that leaked out immediately turned to gas, Langley said.
Emergency sirens were sounded in the area to warn residents of the emergency. Residents in the Plaquemine area were ordered to shelter in place on the evening of the incident, turning off air conditioners and closing all windows and doors. The smell of chlorine was reported in the air several miles from the facility.
Although the fire was extinguished by 9:30 p.m., crews were still working to contain the chlorine spill at 11:15 p.m., emergency officials said. Because air monitoring showed chlorine levels outside of the plant that were not dangerously high, no evacuations were ordered.
Residents were given the “all clear” early the following morning.
On April 20, Olin Corporation issued the following statement: “Our chlorine release response efforts in Plaquemine continue. In an abundance of caution, we will maintain the current level of alert until the system is free of chlorine. Monitoring confirms there is no risk of offsite exposure. No injuries have been reported in connection with the event. We are conducting a thorough analysis as we work to identify the cause. Olin is working with all appropriate agencies, and we extend our sincere gratitude to the state and local emergency response personnel who have assisted throughout the event. The safety of our employees, the community, and our environment is always our top priority.”
Originally, no injuries were reported, but three days later, Iberville Parish President Mitch Ourso said 23 residents went to a Plaquemine-area hospital because of the leak. That number was later revised to 39, most with mild symptoms.
In February, 2022, Olin announced that two of its six power generation units at its Freeport location had shut down due to a mechanical failure. Those shutdowns were among those noted in the company’s April 20 letter.
Last year, Olin invoked force majeure after its Freeport facility was affected by Winter Storm Uri and was forced to halt production due to the lack of electrical power, natural gas, and other raw materials. All of Olin’s Freeport operations were impacted. In addition, production at Olin’s Plaquemine, Louisiana; St. Gabriel, Louisiana; Oxford, Mississippi; and McIntosh, Alabama, facilities were also negatively impacted. As a result, on February 18, 2021, Olin invoked force majeure on all chemical product shipments from North America. Their facilities had returned to operation by March 31, 2021.
According to the company’s most recent quarterly report, in 2021, they had the largest chlor alkali capacity in North America and globally, and in North America are the No. 1 producer of industrial bleach. Olin’s Plaquemine facility can produce up to 850,000 metric tons of chlorine and 934,066 metric tons of caustic soda per year. Other large chlor alkali producers in North America include The Occidental Petroleum Corporation and Westlake Chemical Corporation.