BASF halts TDI production at German plant due to low Rhine water levels

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BASF's operations at Ludwigshafen, Germany

German chemicals company BASF SE has had to stop toluene diisocyanate (TDI) production at its Ludwigshafen headquarters production facility, due to an “all-time” low in Rhine River water levels.

The company announced Nov. 26 that the move was inevitable despite measures to shift to alternative means of transport such as pipeline, trucks and rail. 

“[Despite the measures] Not all raw materials can be supplied to BASF’s Ludwigshafen site. Therefore, BASF will have to stop the TDI production in Ludwigshafen,” the company said. 

The restart of production will depend on improved Rhine water level, said BASF, adding it will be in “close contact” with customers. 

TDI is a key chemical for production of polyurethane flexible foams and non-foam urethanes. 

BASF announced in August that it had to cut back part of its production due to low Rhine levels, but did not specify which products were affected.

Covestro AG, another key German speciality chemicals player also announced last week that its operations were interrupted by the low water levels in Rhine.  

In a statement Nov. 20, Covestro said it was lowering earnings (EBITDA) to “slightly below” the level of 2017 due to stronger-than-expected competition and the low water level of the Rhine River, which has resulted in production losses and higher logistics costs. 

The River Rhine is a key transport route for the European chemical industry.  This is because many of the industry’s plants are located on the river. Low water levels reduce the number of chemical barges that can navigate the river. This means lower production for plants on the river, such as Leverkusen, Dormagen and Ludwigshafen.

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