Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Chemical and Material Shortage Alerts – October 2013

The purpose of this blog is to identify chemical and material shortages reported on the Internet.  The sources of the information reported here are primarily news releases issued on the Internet.  The issue period of the news releases is from the middle of September 2013 to the middle of October 2013.

Section I below lists those chemicals and materials that were on the September 2013 Chemical and Material Shortage Alerts list and continue to have news releases indicating they are in short supply. Click here to read the September 2013 Chemical and Material Shortage Alerts list.

Section II lists the new chemicals and materials (not on the September list).  Also provided is some explanation for the shortage and when appropriate geographical information.  The blog attempts to list only actual shortages situations – shortages are being experienced currently as of the news release.   Chemicals and materials identified in news releases as only being in danger of being in short supply status are not listed.

Section I.   Chemicals and materials that continue from September to be reported as in short supply are: coal; copper scrap; helium; iron ore; hydrochloric acid; palladium; propylene; tin; and urea.  See the September list (click here) for explanations for the shortages and for geographical information.

Section II.   Shortages Reported in October Not Found on the  Previous Month’s List

Aluminum Scrap.  Scrap aluminum metal shortages are being experienced in China and in Europe.  One reason for the shortage is the increased demand for aluminum in China, with the supply of scrap aluminum not keeping up with the demand.

Jade.  A jade shortage is being experienced in Asia.  Prices have been increasing sharply.  The reason is that that jade is an important status symbol in many Asian cultures and the increased prosperity of many Asians is increasing the demand for jade.

Leather.   Leather has been in short supply in at least three countries: China; Pakistan; and Uruguay.  An explanation for shortages in Chain is the increased environmental regulations at tanneries, decreasing the leather output.   In Pakistan, an explanation is the decreased slaughter of sacrificial animals for religious observance purposes.   A reason in Uruguay is a much lower slaughter of cattle.

Sand.   Due to government-imposed restrictions on sand excavation, inadequate sand supply is available in parts of India to meet the construction industry’s demand.

Styrene.   Styrene production in China is not keeping up with its demand for use in polystyrene production.  One reason is that several styrene-producing facilities in many parts of the world have been down at the same time due to maintenance and technical problems.  This has resulted in a tight styrene supply world-wide.

Reasons for Section II shortages can be broadly categorized as: 

1.  Mining not keeping up with demand: jade;
2.  Production not keeping up with demand: leather; styrene;
3.  Government regulations: leather; sand;

4.  Sources no longer available: aluminum scrap.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Chemical Plant Concentrations by States in the United States

The United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides employment data by states for specific occupations.  One occupation for which employment data is provided is chemical plant and system operators.  Using this data as a surrogate for the number of chemical plants by states (the correlation between chemical plant operators and chemical plants should be high), I generated the two graphs below.

The first graph shows the BLS chemical plant operator employment data by state.  Red represents the state (Texas) with the highest number of chemical plant operators (6,820 operators; as of 2012; based on BLS surveys).  The graph shows in the lower left corner what the states’ colors indicate; from light green to dark green to blue to red signifying increasing numbers of chemical plant operators (and presumably numbers of chemical plants).   Based on the data used for the graph, Texas has the higher number, followed by Louisiana, South Carolina, and Ohio.  BLS reports no data for the states in white.

The second graph shows a somewhat different picture.   On the graph, states are colored by the number of chemical plant operators per state’s square mileage.   Note that whereas New Jersey and Massachusetts do not show high numbers of operators on the first graph, the second graph shows a high concentration of chemical plant operators (and presumably chemical plants) per square mile in these states.  Absolute numbers (number of employed plant operators) versus concentration numbers (density; rate) for other states are also different, e.g. Texas and California.  Data used to generate the second graph show that New Jersey has the highest density of operators (and presumably plants) followed by Louisiana, South Carolina, and Ohio.

Having relative comparisons of chemical plant operator concentrations (reflecting chemical plant density) seems to me to be a useful metric, perhaps more useful than the absolute numbers of operators and plants.   Such a metric could be of value to chemical companies seeking a site for a chemical plant.  Selecting a state with a high concentration (rather than only a high absolute number) might be advantageous.  For example, finding chemical operators to employ might be easier in high concentration states and high concentrations indicate clusters and clusters are known to lead to competitive advantages. 

The chemical plant operator employment data can be generated at a Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) site (click here).  Details on the BLS occupational employment statistics program can be found by clicking here.  Square mileage per state data is available at this site (click here).