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Welders Affected by Acetylene Shortage

Welding

This past March, a chemical plant located in Kentucky exploded. The Carbide Industries, LLC plant supplied welders across the nation with acetylene gas, a gas commonly used in welding due to the fact it is easy to use and is very hot, making it easy to bend and heat metal. The explosion has caused production to cease and a nationwide shortage is putting the squeeze on welders who use acetylene gas in their welding processes.

Suppliers across the nation are beginning to ration the supply of acetylene. While not all suppliers are rationing as of yet, many are restricting access to only existing customers. The suppliers will refill a cylinder of the gas if the supplier's name is on the cylinder, but they will not refill a cylinder that has any other name. Welders are not being able to buy additional cylinders to stock up on the gas either. And if the supplier a welder normally uses has run out of the gas, they cannot go to another supplier and buy it.

Already the cost of acetylene gas has more than doubled. For those who are refilling their tanks, now is a good time to do it if your supplier will allow it and has the acetylene to do it. The price is expected to go up until acetylene manufacturing is back to the levels it was before the explosion. Welders are not the only ones affected: junkyards, mechanics, and companies that deal in heating and cooling are also feeling the shortage.

There are other methods that welders can use that will cut costs and do not depend on acetylene gas. Welders can use cutting wheels and plasma cutters for example. Another gas that can be used the way that acetylene is used is propane. Currently, the cost of propane is less than acetylene, so many welders are switching to using propane as an alternative in order to keep their own costs down and avoid having to raise their prices.

It is unknown how long production of acetylene will be stopped. It is expected that it will be a significant amount of time before the plant will be able to resume production. There is a plant located in Pryor, Oklahoma – another Carbide Industries plant – that is running at full capacity to try and lessen the impact of the shortage. However, it is much smaller than the plant that exploded in Kentucky. Acetylene is also made in chemical plants in Louisiana, in the cities of Geismar and Taft. These are already part of the production stream.

Have you been affected by the shortage? If so, how are you handling it?

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Dylan Brown

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