Nitrofreeze® is experiencing supply chain disruptions that may delay the start of your dry ice blasting and cleaning (DIBC), deburring, or deflashing project. Shipments of liquid carbon dioxide (CO2), which is used to produce dry ice, have been slow to arrive from Canada by rail. Meanwhile, our main dry ice supplier is selling product only to hospitals and for other COVID-related needs.
Nitrofreeze® is now buying dry ice from a local, secondary supplier who is not restricting our purchases. Shipments of liquid CO2 remain limited, however, and this makes it difficult for us to schedule DIBC jobs along with some in-house dry ice deburring and dry ice deflashing. There isn’t a known end-date for the current supply disruption, but we’re committed to doing all that we can to meet your project deadlines.
What’s Driving the Disruptions?
The supply chain disruptions that we’re now experiencing have their roots in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. In March 2020, the margin between CO2 supply and demand was already low. As governments declared public health emergencies and manufacturing facilities closed, the Northeast’s largest producer of ethanol shutdown. A co-product of the ethanol production process, carbon dioxide can be converted to liquified CO2 to produce dry ice.
The closing of this upstate New York plant constricted supply at a time when other, smaller ethanol producers were struggling. “Many of the ethanol plants that shutdown in the beginning of the lockdowns did not end up coming back,” says Tim Koerner, Chief Sales and Service Officer at American Carbonation Corporation in Palmer, Massachusetts. In an interview with gasworld, Koerner also cited the effects of higher corn prices in the U.S. Midwest and the high cost of rail shipments to distant processing facilities.
These supply chain disruptions weren’t limited by geography, however. In the Southeastern U.S., feedstock problems and equipment issues prompted several CO2 plants to limit customer purchases. Meanwhile, industrial gas companies from the Midwest to the West Coast struggled to meet demand or even remain open. In northern California, demand for CO2 has outpaced production so much that product is being shipped via rail car and road. This adds costs but can also divert supplies from other regions.
Today, part of what’s driving this pandemic-related demand is the transportation and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. Because both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines use synthetic messenger RNA, or mRNA, they need to be stored at very cold temperatures to prevent chemical changes. Although many large, urban hospitals have cryogenic freezers, other medical facilities do not. Companies that ship the vaccine and local pharmacies that administer doses may also need dry ice for proper storage.
In addition, seasonal challenges and workforce issues are driving both liquid CO2 and dry ice disruption. As Steve Atkins, Executive Vice President for Gases at Tennessee-based nexAir explains, “Demand goes up and plants don’t run as well or efficiently in the warm/hot months”. Cooler weather is on the way, but relief might not come from the north, where rail service from Canada is what American Carbonation Corporation’s Koerner describes as “very rough” because of ongoing labor shortages.
What Happens Next?
Although much of the Northeast’s liquid CO2 arrives by rail from Canada, Nitrofreeze is working to mitigate transportation-related disruptions and ensure a steady supply of dry ice. Here at our headquarters in Worcester, Massachusetts (USA), we are communicating regularly with both vendors and customers as we work to schedule and complete your dry ice blasting and cleaning, deburring, or deflashing projects in a timely manner.
Please feel free to contact us if you have questions or concerns.
(508) 459-7447 x 105