Can Technology Help Solve the Chlorine Shortage?
August 17, 2021
A few months ago, we published an update on the chlorine shortage. We’re back again with more information, but unfortunately the situation hasn’t improved much.
Before, only certain types of chlorine — mainly Trichlor — weren’t in stock. Now, the shortage has gotten worse and is affecting supply in a more far-reaching way.
Where Are We Now?
Many pools have shut down across the country since, due to a widespread lack of chlorine, it’s simply not viable or safe to keep them running.
Even when chlorine suppliers do have some of the chemical available, delivery times are taking far longer than we’re used to. There’s a minimum wait of one week for standard chlorine and a wait of two weeks in certain markets, depending on location. To cope with the demand, prices are increasing.
What’s Causing the Storage?
Tracing the shortage back to its origins takes us to a fire at a chlorine plant in Louisiana. The loss of the facility and its stock drastically cut down on Trichlor, which is what we discussed in our last update.
Subsequently, just as people started to look for alternatives for Trichlor, major industry events impacted the supply of other forms of chlorine. The labor shortage across the country has impacted liquid bleach suppliers ability to package and deliver chemicals. Rail cars have been stacked up at many major distribution centers. Supply chain disruptions have impacted liquid and Cal Hypo suppliers ability to access necessary components and raw materials. The plastic shortage has limited the production of plastic buckets (pool companies have had to wait weeks for a supply of Cal Hypo as the manufacturer had the chemical, but not the buckets to package the chemical).
All these challenges, along with the unprecedented demand for chlorine due to the growth in the pool industry, has resulted in significant shortages across the entire supply chain and across all product types. We expect supplies to be tight through August before loosening as the summer swim season abates. Next year, however, remains a concern for many as some of the core structural challenges in the supply chain (e.g., plan closures) may be solved by next spring.
Can Technology Help?
For most, the crisis this summer hit too fast to make immediate changes in pool operations. However, with fair warning, operators can consider a number of options as we move forward.
Reducing demand for chlorine is a great place to start. Many properties have implemented leak detection sensors to stop leaks and reduce chemical usage (a pool that is leaking can use up to 50% more chemical as all the new fill water must be treated).
Implementing tank level sensors (on larger chemical containers) can help properties stay proactive in ordering chemicals will help avoid delays in ordering. Some properties have even integrated the notifications directly into supplier workflow software so no manual ordering or effort is needed.
Implementing a new chemical automation system can reduce the peaks and valleys of chlorine usage and reduce demand by up to 20%. In general, eliminating manual feed will be significant as operators tend to overfeed and underfeed which leads to a whole host of additional challenges and expenditures.
Integrating on-site chlorination technology into your program can also be very helpful in reducing the challenges of transporting, purchasing and managing chemicals. Such technology will create chlorine on-site through a brine based platform and can handle very small bodies of water up to the largest resorts (we have a number of very large resorts in Hawaii running entirely on such systems whereas others integrate such systems with more traditional liquid or cal hypo systems).
For any questions or concerns about the chlorine shortage, please contact us. We’ll help you review your options and create a strategy to get you and your guests through the summer!