Chlorine Shortage: Supply May Be Impacted From Chemical Fire Caused by Hurricane Laura

Posted by Matt Fichera on Oct 7 2020

Chlorine Shortage: Supply May Be Impacted From Chemical Fire Caused by Hurricane Laura

It may be a good idea to stock up on pool chlorine at current prices before possible 2021 shortage.

In late August 2020 Hurricane Laura made landfall and swept across the southern part of Louisiana. Slamming into the Lake Charles and Westlake area, it caused damage that contributed to a fire at KIK Custom Product’s Biolab plant that lasted 3 days. Biolab is the parent company of BioGuard pool chemicals.

KIK is based in Toronto, Canada and labels itself as the largest independent producer of consumer products in all of North America. Their portfolio of products includes well-known brands like Clorox, Spic and Span, Comet, as well as BioGuard pool disinfectants.

The facility involved manufactures BioGuard products and can produce 115 million pounds per year of trichloroisocyanuric acid and disodium isocyanurate. “Trichlor” for short is a white powder with a heavy “chlorine” smell. Often coming in either tablet or granular form, it’s used to kill bacteria and control algae growth in swimming pools and hot tubs.

These pool cleaning products start to break down and release chlorine when added to water as this is the normal mechanism used when placed within swimming pool water. This process is exactly what happened during the hurricane as the products in the plant began to decompose and react when exposed to water. Due to storm damage, an area of the facility was breached and water was able to enter what is normally an enclosed space. That water is believed to have initiated a chemical reaction producing both chlorine gas and heat, which may have led to the fire. When heated, these materials can release toxic chlorine fumes and nitrogen oxides.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board along with KIK and BioLab are still investigating the cause, the extent of the damage, and the amount of product lost. It is known that about 835 tons of pool disinfecting products was present at the plant when the incident happened. The full investigation is expected to last several months. The plant, which sits on 15 acres within a larger industrial complex had been shut down and was completely evacuated prior to the storm hitting. No injuries or illnesses were reported and all employees and people on the ground were confirmed safe.

So where does this leave the pool industry and the availability of trichlor for the rest of 2020 and the upcoming 2021 pool season? The ever-popular sanitizer has been needed even more in 2020 than it usually is as the coronavirus pandemic has caused people to spend the majority of their time at home and families look to extend the swimming season.

The increase in demand in one of the busiest pool seasons on record was already going to be responsible for manufacturing price increases and puts this fire and possible product loss even more under the microscope. It is yet to be determined just how much the incident will affect both pricing and supply of the market overall, but stocking up for next year may not be a bad thing.

These pool chemicals are dry and can be stored without too much trouble so purchasing at current prices could be advantageous in anticipation of a price increase and chemical shortage that could very much happen next spring.