15 July 2010 22:29 [Source: ICIS news]
By Cristina Kroll
BUENOS AIRES (ICIS news)--A cold spell has caused Argentina to restrict natural gas to industrial customers, causing some chemical producers to halt production, sources said on Thursday.
Fertilizer producer Profertil halted production on Wednesday, said Jorge Hernandez, the company's institutional relations manager.
Meanwhile, since Tuesday, Dow Cono Sur has run at rates just high enough to avoid damaging any equipment, said Rolando Meninato, president of the subsidiary.
The natural gas restrictions have become an annual event for Argentina's chemical industry, as the nation scrambled to ensure that residents had enough fuel to heat their homes during the southern hemisphere's winter.
The cold spell began on 10 July, and it could last until 20 July in the center and northern portions of the country, according to the National Meteorological Service (SMN).
Already, snow has fallen in the provinces of San Juan, Cordoba and Mendoza. Sleet fell in the city of Bahia Blanca, home of a petrochemical complex.
With the cold weather, residential natural gas consumption could reach 85m-90m cubic metres/day, following earlier levels of 65m-70m cubic metres/day, sources said.
Likewise, demand for electricity has already set records, according to the Wholesale Energy Market Administrating Co.
The cold spell could cause electricity consumption to break more records, according to the Foundation for Electrical Development (FUNDALEC).
The Argentine Industrial Union (UIA) has demanded that the nation find a better way to dole out natural gas. For example, the country could impose restrictions on companies that could quickly switch to liquid fuel from natural gas.
While Argentina has recently opened the Tierra del Fuego pipeline, supplies of natural gas still fall short due to declining extraction rates from existing wells.
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