A fire on August 10 at a facility in Marl, Germany, forced specialty chemicals firm Ashland to halt operations and declare “a force majeure in Europe” for its products 1.4 butanediol (BDO), tetrahydrofuran (THF) and formaldehyde.
The cause of the fire – which resulted in no significant injuries – is still being investigated, and production facility will continue to be suspended until late September at the earliest. The firm said it expects volume constraints for the three products to extend into the first quarter of fiscal 2018, beginning October.
“Early estimates for the loss associated with the incident, which could change as new information becomes available, are in the range of $15 - $20 million [€13 - €17m], all but several million of which will be recorded in Ashland's September fiscal quarter.”
The firm added the reduced availability is limited to BDO, THF and formaldehyde, and it is working with its affected customers to minimise any impact.
In the pharma industry, the chemical BDO and its derivatives are used as intermediates. Dehydrated BDO is used to make the intermediate Tetrahydrofuran (THF), used as a solvent in the manufacture of a number of products, for example.
The chemicals are also used in a variety of other industries for producing engineering plastics, polyurethanes, solvents and elastic spandex fibres.
Developing and working with increasingly volatile and hazardous active and inactive ingredients comes with safety risks.
In June, a toxic substance leak at a solvent manufacturing facility in Pavia, Italy run by specialty chemical firm Bitolea caused 39 workers to be hospitalised after reporting burns to their respiratory tracts and eyes.
And last year, an explosion at BASF’s Ludwigshafen, Germany site killed two employees and halted production at 20 manufacturing plants.