Natgas shortage paralyses Argentina’s Bahia Blanca complex

03 August 2010 21:15  [Source: ICIS news]

BUENOS AIRES (ICIS)--Petrochemical plants in the Bahia Blanca industrial complex in the province of Buenos Aires were nearly paralysed amid a natural gas supply shortage, an industry official said on Tuesday.

Cold weather sparked natural gas restrictions for the industry, which in turn has halted several petrochemical operations.

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.

“Right now Dow is producing 30% of its polyethylene (PE) nameplate capacity, with two of its four plants in the Bahia Blanca complex fully stopped, one partially working and one functioning normally,” said Rolando Meninato, president of Dow Cono Sur.

Dow makes 600,000 tonnes/year of PE at the complex.

Jorge Henandez, Profertil's institutional relations manager, said that “the company’s fertilizer facility in Bahia Blanca is in the middle [of] a programmed stop for technical maintenance since last week”.

Scheduling technical stops in facilities for the South American winter is a strategy the companies have implemented because the Argentine authorities usually restrict natural gas supply for the industry in order to guarantee residential supply.

Lack of investments aimed towards expanding Argentina’s natural gas supply is also a factor.

A report from the Fundacion Mediterranea, comprised of data from the multinational company BP Global, said that between 2006 and 2009 gas production dropped 10.3% in Argentina, even more than the 4% world average in that period. 

Since 10 July, when the current cold spell began, there have been a few days where the temperature has increased.

Polar temperatures returned last weekend and the local National Meteorological Service reported that they would continue at least until Wednesday.

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By: Cristina Kroll
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