Brazil chem industry feeling the heat from summer drought

13 February 2014 20:23 Source:ICIS News

By Leo Siqueira

CAMPINAS, Brazil (ICIS)--The heat that has plagued Brazil this summer along with a persistent drought has chemical makers and trade unions concerned as both take steps to continue production amid less-than-ideal conditions.

The country's chemical industry association Abiquim said on Thursday that it is more concerned about the hot weather than the recent water shortages.

"With the excessive heat, companies are having a hard time to cooling down their equipment, and those which are able to do this are making adjustments on their work hours by maximising production through night time shifts so there's no production decrease," it said.

Some decreases have occurred, and Abiquim warned that more are on the way if this season’s heat wave does not abate.

Belgium-based chemical specialties maker Rhodia recently stopped making nylon and polyamide (PA) intermediates at its Paulinia complex in the state of Sao Paulo as a result of a lack of water in the region.

Rhodia plans to import nylon and intermediates to supply its consumers as long as water levels remain low at the Atibaia river.

According to Rhodia, adipic acid production has been affected the most. Rhodia said it has the capacity to produce 95,000 tonnes/year of adipic acid.

The water Rhodia uses on its industrial processes comes from the Cantareira Water Supply System, whose water level is at 18.8% of capacity, according to Sao Paulo state water utility supplier Sabesp.

"The only plants that have been hit by the lack of water are those that drain water from the Atibaia river [the river receives water from the Cantareira Water Supply System], in the region of Campinas," Abiquim said.

State-run energy producer Petrobras said it has been implementing several actions to reuse water at its Replan refinery, which is located in the city of Paulinia in drought-stricken Sao Paulo state. 

The company did not disclose details about water- or heat-related issues at its other refineries in Brazil. 

Petrochemical producer Braskem said that up to this point its units have not been hit by any water shortages.

The resins producer said most of the water it uses is reclaimed, or treated wastewater.

Braskem inaugurated its reclaimed water system in November 2012.

Electricity has been an issue during this hot summer as well, as many of Brazil’s hydroelectric reservoirs have suffered a great deal of water loss from the drought. Earlier this month, a power outage hit four different regions of the country.

Recently, the country’s mines and energy ministry assured Brazilians that it would continue supplying electricity to its consumers.

"Despite the climate adversities Brazil faces, with the consequent reduction of water inflow at hydroelectric reservoirs, the supply of electricity is guaranteed," the ministry recently said in a statement.

Some relief has come to parts of the country, as rains and cooler air are in the weather forecast through the weekend. But much more rain is needed to break the substantial drought.

By Leo Siqueira