The chlorine shortage of the 2021 season was epic, to say the least. Searching all over town for chlorine and buying all the Clorox bleach off of the shelves in Walmart was a common event. What caused the shortage and what does the 2022 season look like? I sat down with Chris Brink the CEO of HASA – one of the leaders in the production of liquid chlorine to get some answers.
Not to place too much blame on the current supply and demand crunch, what I like to call “The Not Enough Economy” but this was a factor. As Chris explains it the base ingredient for liquid chlorine and muriatic acid was in high demand. They use it for other industries and of course to make drinking water safe across the nation. So with a shortage of the base ingredient, there was a shortage of all types of chlorine.
Add to that the Bio Lab factory burning down in 2020 which was the main production of Tri-Chlor in the industry at 2 million pounds a year, a perfect storm was created in 2021 for the swimming pool industry. I use the analogy of flour being in short supply. Pizza parlors, donut shops, grocery stores, and the like will be scrambling to get flour. With only so much available your local donut shop might only have chocolate cake sprinkle donuts and not Bear Claws and the like. The pizza parlor may only have medium pizzas and no large pizzas are available. Not a disaster but frustrating.
With a limited chlorine supply, it is not just inconvenient but disastrous as every pool needs it to stay blue and safe to swim in. Not only that with one type of chlorine out of the market (Tri-Chlor) or extremely limited, but the demand for the other chlorine types also went up. So even though HASA shipped more liquid chlorine than they ever have before it wasn’t enough.
Shipping issues affected HASA and their liquid returnable cases as well as a shortage of available labor and drivers. All of this is to say that 2021 was a bad year for chlorine suppliers and a tough year for the pool pro.
How does it look in 2022? My sources say there will be 30% more chlorine available. The Bio Lab factory will not be back online until the Spring of 2022. That means Tri-Chlor will be in short supply still for the 2022 season. 30% more chlorine is better but may not be enough with new pools being built at a record pace and Commercial pools opening up fully in 2022. Chris Brink suggests sitting down with your supplier and working out some type of plan to get you the chlorine you will need. Not a bad idea.
He also mentioned that there was some waste of chlorine product with overuse. I agree that many of us don’t really measure the dosage that well, including me. Since you had a ton of chlorine on your truck adding a gallon or an extra bag of shock just because is and was common. Maybe we were overusing chlorine and this crisis will make us all more aware of how much chlorine a pool needs week to week and not overdo it as much since we won’t have the extra chlorine on our trucks. If the donut shop is out of Bear claws, maybe you didn’t really need it anyway? I think that is the thought and a valid point.
The big silver lining in all this is that we were able to raise service rates easily based on the rate of economic inflation and explaining the shortage the increased prices in the industry. Maybe not high enough but any rate increase helped offset the higher chlorine costs.
It also led many to add borates to their service accounts or a PoolRX to stretch out the chlorine and make it last longer. So some good has come of this, not in any way saying it was not painful and frustrating but you may have made your service more efficient and cost-effective because of the chlorine shortage.
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