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MARCH 10, 2021

Winter Storms Cause US Polyurethane Shortage

By: Kim Lorang

As southern states in the US continue to struggle with the aftermath of their unprecedented winter storms, the foodservice industry faces disruptions due to chemical shortages amplified by the storm's damage.

COVID-19 has deeply affected supply and demand for petrochemical raw materials, including polyurethane resins, ethyl acetate, UV resins, phthalic anhydrid, and more.

In February, winter storms caused plants in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas to halt production as they struggled with damage and loss of supplies. This has further exasperated supply and demand issues for chemical products.

With many factories currently unable to fulfill orders and complete shipments, most of the polyurethane market is operating under Force Majeure, meaning unforeseeable circumstances are preventing them from fulfilling their contracts.

One of the significant segments of our industry affected by these shortages is refrigeration. The shortage of polyurethane, which is used to insulate refrigerators and freezers, has deeply impacted the production of products that require the use of foam products. We believe walk-in unit production will be severely impacted.

Polyurethane and other foam materials to be used by companies in the United States are manufactured primarily in the US in areas where end-users are located, as shipping the lightweight material overseas is inefficient.

In addition to being used in refrigeration products, polyfoam is largely used in bedding, cars, packaging, and many other products, causing disruption in a significant number of industries.

Before reopening, many plants will need to undergo inspections, which may be delayed due to COVID-19. While uncertainty remains over when the chemical industry will fully recover, we know that things will eventually level out and return to a state of normalcy. Until then, we must all extend a little extra patience to our partners facing difficulty and rally to support them when they are able to reopen.

Learn more about this shortage here.

As updates are provided to us on the polyurethane shortage, we will keep you up to date on this developing story.

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