Thursday, November 21, 2013

Chemical and Material Shortage Alerts – November 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 October 2013 to the middle of November 2013.

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

Section II lists the new chemicals and materials (not on the October 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 October to be reported as in short supply are: aluminum scrap; coal (coke); palladium; styrene; and urea.  See the October list (click here) for explanations for the shortages and for geographical information.

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

Copra (Coconut Oil).  Reports from India and Sri Lanka indicate a shortage of coconut oil due to lower production levels of copra (obtained from coconuts).

Natural Gas (China).  Natural gas shortages are being reported in China.  Apparently a main reason is the government’s requirements on reducing the use of coal.  This is increasing natural gas demand as a replacement for coal, outstripping internal natural gas supplies.

Platinum.   Platinum has reached global shortage levels not seen in several years, with demand exceeding supply.   Increased demand from the chemical, electrical, and glass industries apparently account for the imbalance.

Timber.  Insufficient timber supplies are being reported in the United Kingdom and the United States.  In the Untied Kingdom, a reason reported is increased government regulations, e.g. requiring local timber use.   In the Untied States, timber production has recently been less than demand.

Reasons for Section II shortages can be broadly categorized as: 

1.  Mining not keeping up with demand: platinum.
2.  Production not keeping up with demand: copra; timber – US.
3.  Government regulations: timber – UK; natural gas – China.

4.  Sources no longer available: none.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Sustainability Reports as a Source of Benchmarking Data

Sustainability reports are being issued by large chemical companies.   For example, most, if not all, of the 50 companies listed on the Chemical & Engineering News 2012 “Global Top 50" issue sustainability reports.  (Click here to view the “Global Top 50” list. PDF file.)  These reports offer lots of data, based on company measurements, about important non-financial attributes of the companies.  For example, often such measurements as: water usage; solid waste generation rates; worker injury rates; air emissions; employee diversity; and may others, are reported on.  It seems to me that much of this data offers opportunities for benchmarking one own company’s performance against other companies’ performances.  Such benchmarking comparisons can be useful for setting goals and achieving improvements.

One measurement that is often reported on is the total energy a company uses for a year.  I found from the 2012 sustainability reports of 16 chemical companies on the C&EN Top 50 list data on their total energy use.  I only selected companies on the list that received 100% of their sales from chemical sales, in order to better compare companies more alike in their activities.  I found a wide variety of energy use: from 19 petajoules per year to 593 petajoules per year.  Then, I thought about how I could use this energy data for useful benchmarking.  I came up with the idea of determining how many revenue dollars are generated by a company per one gigajoule of energy.

Using the energy data I found, in the reports, and the 2012 sales for the chemical companies, found on the “Top 50” list, I determined the revenue dollars to gigajoule ratios.  What I found was a range of revenue dollars per gigajoule from $374 per gigajoule to $49 per gigajoule.  The average was $154 per gigajoule with a standard deviation of $96 per gigajoule.

These results might be useful for a company to compare their results to.  A low sales generation per energy use, compared to other companies, might suggest not only a need but a potential to improve energy use efficiencies.

The revenues to energy use ratios described above are one example of how data found in sustainability reports might be used for benchmarking benefits.  Certainly other data in these reports can be used in useful benchmarking.  I would be happy to explore with you these opportunities.