Millions of homeowners can expect to pay more to clean and sanitize their swimming pools this summer. According to financial analysts the chlorine shortage we first reported on in September has not improved in the slightest. The fact is that the outlook looks bleak through the summer for the situation to improve.
Why are Chlorine Tablet prices so high right now?
Kate McShane of Goldman Sachs warns in a recent research report released Monday that the chlorine shortage in the United States has not improved. Shortages and price increases stem from an enormous fire at the BioLab factory, one of the country’s largest chlorine tablet manufacturers. The fire put an additional stress on already dwindling supplies.
McShane indicated that prices for chlorine have gone up roughly 37% year over year due to the ongoing shortages. Prices are expected to spike 58% year over year through June to August. This coincides likely enough with the height of pool season. Homeowners are sure to be looking at much higher prices than in previous years.
“Of the 26 pool shops we spoke to, 15 expressed uncertainty or doubt when asked about whether they will have enough chlorine for pool season. Adding to the pressure created by the chlorine shortage, respondents called out a plastic bucket shortage, driven by COVID-related manufacturing slowdowns, which has made procuring certain volume sizes of chlorine more difficult for retailers, and has led suppliers to deliver chlorine in either bags or in buckets with different colored lids, according to respondents,” McShane said.
McShane continued, “When asked about whether the cost and availability of chlorine have improved in the last month or so, several respondents noted that while the supply of chlorine has improved somewhat, cost has not.”
Commentary from the industry’s main pool equipment supplier Pool Corp. on its recent earnings day underscores the severity of the chlorine shortage.
Recent comments from Pool Corp. the industry’s leading supplier of pool equipment emphasize how badly the supply chain has suffered in recent months.
“I mean overall, I would tell you the price on dichlor and trichlor [chlorine tablets], which is the product that was impacted by the shortage, they’re up about 60%. So if you think about how that’s going to shake out for the balance of the year, it will probably remain at elevated level because I believe that the industry is going to be short for the season,” Pool Corp CFO Mark Joslin explained to analysts on a recent earnings call on April 22.
Homeowners Looking for Chlorine Alternatives
Homeowners are bound to look for creative sanitization solutions due to the shortage, Joslin said.
“Now that simply means that people are going to move their method of sanitization to another product, either a granular product or liquid chlorine. But there’s no shortage of ways to sanitize the pool. It just simply means at a certain point people will shift. We’ve also seen certain parts of the country accelerating the use of salt as a method of sanitization too,” Joslin added.
Despite the increasing prices, shares of Pool Corp continue to rise. Shares this quarter are up 11% as Pool Corp continues to absorb market share in a market where seemingly everyone is looking for a pool. First quarter sales and profits rose 57% and 165%, respectively.
Fairview, TX based Orenda Technologies summarized this years price hikes when they stated “Between manufacturing shortages, health and safety protocols and shipping delays, costs in all aspects of the supply chain are higher than ever thanks to COVID-19. This is not just in the pool business, it’s pretty much the entire global economy. Unique to pools, however, is the catastrophe of losing a major chlorine manufacturing plant, responsible for over a third of domestic trichlor production. That hits everyone hard.”
BioLab Plant Reopening Will Impact Chlorine Prices for 2023
The news of BioLab’s plant burning to the ground during Hurricane Laura in 2020 had a ripple effect on chlorine prices that has lasted for the past two years. We first reported that BioLab was rebuilding the plant back in July of 2021. A recent announcement that construction is completed and in time for summer production has pool industry analysts optimistic. “We are delighted to reopen our BioLab facility in time to support the 2023 pool season,” said Michael Sload, CEO of KIK Consumer Products.
BioLab is the nation’s second-largest manufacturer of dry chlorine products. An announcement that the Westlake, Louisiana facility is fully operational means that one of the driving factors for the initial spike we saw on the price of chlorine has been removed. Prices for dry chlorine products soared in 2021 due to concerns about shortages and remained high through the summer of 2022.
Understanding The Correlation Between BioLab & Price Increases
The conditions for a sudden surge in the price for chlorine stemmed partly from the fact that BioLab was out of commission. The main factor that was driving prices to explode during the past two years was largely due to the pandemic in general.
A large percentage of the population was quarantined, which meant more people than ever before, were at home and using their swimming pool. This put a much higher glut on demand than anticipated. With the pandemic shutting many plants down, and logistical delays plaguing distributors throughout most of 2021, these conditions as well as rising inflation in 2022 kept prices high through the summer.
The reopening of the BioLab facility will certainly impact the supply chain in a positive way. “BioLab will be actively supplying the pool market for the 2023 season which should provide some relief,” said plant manager Donald Brunette.
Prices are predicted to begin dropping a bit in light of that fact but will certainly not sink lower than they were prior to the pandemic. As the population starts to adjust to a post-Covid world, the surge we saw for swimming pools has already begun to recalibrate to pre-pandemic levels. The only remaining catalyst for keeping chlorine prices from truly resetting back to 2020 is the cumulative rate of inflation is roughly 14.7% higher than in 2020.
While this should certainly factor into the equation, most experts agree that with this news, the chlorine shortage is finally over and a bucket of chlorine tablets should cost substantially less next summer than it has in previous years. This comes as welcome news for both consumers and pool professionals.
Ultimate Water Taps Jeff Jones for Sales of Chlorine Genie
Ultimate Water, whose flagship product is the Chlorine Genie, is pleased to announce the addition of industry veteran Jeff Jones as the new Regional Sales Manager and Buying Group Liaison for the company’s residential and commercial divisions. Based out of Texas, Jones has been in the swimming pool industry for over 40 years spanning a broad range of roles including the VP of Sales for DEL Ozone, National Sales Manager for Letro Products, as well as work in construction management and sales for Blue Haven and Riverbend Pools. Most recently Jones managed buying group sales for Florida Water Products.
“We are very pleased to have Jeff join our team,” says Thomas Vessiere, National Sales Director for Ultimate Water. “Jeff brings deep experience, industry knowledge, and strong relationships that will be especially helpful as the demand for the Chlorine Genie grows exponentially in our industry.”
Having sold and designed pool water sanitation systems for many years, Jones is very enthusiastic about being a part of the growing success of the Chlorine Genie. “The design and functionality of the Chlorine Genie makes it an ideal product for our industry and is especially welcome right now as builders, retailers and service professionals grapple with the most efficient way to continuously produce chlorine safely, cost effectively and immediately for their customers,” explains Jones.
Jones will be at the AQUALive Show booth # 416 and can be reached directly at [email protected] or by calling 214-415-2510.
More information about the Chlorine Genie can be found at:
San Diego, CA
A Borates Shortage is Looming on The Horizon
One of the specialty chemicals being talked about a lot in light of the chlorine shortages and rising prices are borates. As strong proponents of borates, it troubles us to say that our go-to sanitzer supplement may soon be facing the same shortages and rising costs that we’ve been seeing on the trichlor side.
What The Boron Shortage Means For The Pool Industry
If you’re in the pool business you already know, borates are becoming increasingly difficult to find. What inventory is available is vastly more expensive than in previous years. We’re already knee-deep into the dog days of summer and prices for chlorine have skyrocketed well past analysts’ projections.
A lot of pool service professionals have been turning to borates as the savior during this time of inflation and rising prices. Many technicians already use borates as a buffer against upwards shifting pH. When your pH level rises above what is deemed “normal” (about 7.8), using borates achieves optimum results.
Why Pool Professionals Are Turning To Borates
Bacteria can thrive in water with a high pH level. When this happens it makes chlorine less effective. Pool professionals use borates to alleviate the issue, because it works to keep pH from drifting upward. In addition, there are other positive aspects to using borates in your pool. For one, it keeps the pool clear of algae and calcium scaling. Pool equipment repair specialists will be the first ones to recommend borates. When it comes to maintaining ideal water chemistry for your pool equipment, borates does an amazing job.
For the past few years, the adoption of borates by pool pros has steadily increased season after season. The concern now is that we may have hit maximum capacity as demand has increased well beyond available inventory.
Dwindling Boron Supplies Driving Prices Higher
The global boron market shortage is driving prices higher this season. For those who’ve been thinking of switching to using borates, this definitely is something to consider. When it comes to getting trichlor at affordable rates, it already feels that pool pros are a lower priority as far as it goes to maintaining pricing structures. Now, it appears the same thing has begun happening with borates.
Although borates and boric acid are near synonymous with pools, the swimming pool industry itself is actually a lower priority in terms of its consumption of boron. The industrial glass industry is the largest consumer of boron, roughly 48%, followed by the ceramics industry (15%) and agricultural industry (15%); the cleaning industry of which the pool industry represents a fraction consumes roughly 2% of the world’s boron.
You’ll find boron in everything from industrial fertilizers to high-end ceramics and solar panels. Boron also has medical applications which improve wound healing and boosts the body’s usage of estrogen, testosterone, and vitamin D. It improves magnesium absorption, reduces inflammation, increases antioxidants, and boosts brain electrical activity in both cognitive performance as well as short-term memory.
What is absolutely certain is that we (the pool industry) didn’t cause a borates shortage. Clearly, demand is higher in these other industries which are causing prices to surge. Right now the boron supply chain is very weak. Over 60% of the material comes from mines located in Turkey which is the top producer, followed by Russia, South America and the United States.
For the time being, production is gradually declining. As existing boron reserves deplete, we’re seeing demand far exceed supplies, resulting in higher prices such as $1,250 per ton, far exceeding analysts’ predictions for $739 per ton.
While the demand in the U.S. by pool professionals may be high, the top consumer of boron is China, followed by India and Japan. Boron is produced domestically only in the State of California and it appears very little of it is earmarked towards maintaining supply chains for borates.
The story isn’t all doom and gloom for pool professionals who want to switch to borates. Fortunately, folks like Natural Chemistry, Brenntag, and others are still intent on keeping inventory on the shelves so you should still be able to find their products through distribution. If they don’t have borates available, demand that they replenish their stock. This may be the only way to guarantee the pool industry remains a priority at all.
Listen to our entire discussion on the Talking Pools podcast.
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