LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Carbide Industries LLC, the largest domestic producer of calcium carbide, suffered a plant fire resulting in the death of two employees and halting production for what is expected to be an extended period of time. As a result, domestic supplies of calcium carbide, an essential component to acetylene, may be thin until Carbide Industries returns to production. This could impact the availability of acetylene.

The Heating, Airconditioning & Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI) reported that it spoke with a senior Carbide Industries executive to gauge the long-term supply of the acetylene component and learned that Carbide Industries:

• Will continue supplying calcium carbide from current inventory on an allocation basis for the next two months.

• Has a second, smaller plant in Oklahoma that is ramping-up production.

• Has become a calcium carbide importer with foreign shipments currently arriving.

• Expects to have as many as six foreign sources of calcium carbide in inventory by May.

• Does not anticipate supply limitations after May.

• Anticipates rebuilding its Louisville, Ky., facility within six to nine months.

HARDI said MPS or MAPP gas are potential alternatives, but supplies for HVACR applications may be very limited. Propylene is the most common alternative to acetylene, but will require technicians to purchase new tips, regulators, and hoses in most cases. While not yet substantiated, there is talk of significant backlogs on propylene containers. HARDI stated it is continuing to monitor the situation.

Publication date:04/11/2011