Supply bottleneck: BASF reports on vitamin production status

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/RTimages
© GettyImages/RTimages
BASF says the start-up of its citral plant in Ludwigshafen near Frankfurt, which was shut down after a fire in October, is not expected before March 2018 at the earliest.

The German chemical giant published an update on the status quo of the repair works at the facility last Thursday (January 4).

It also said its vitamin A, E, and carotenoids products, manufactured at the Ludwigshafen site, are only expected to become free for shipping some six to 12 weeks after the start-up of the citral plant.  

“After initiation of citral production, downstream products need to be manufactured in a step-wise approach.”

BASF manufacturing accounts for 45% of the global supply of citral, an essential precursor in the manufacture of vitamin A and E. The fire in October saw the company declare force majeure for all its citral and isoprenol based aroma ingredients, and its vitamin A and E production; the event has created a huge shortage of those critical feed ingredients globally.

Next steps

In terms of why it takes so long to get the citral plant up and running again, BASF said the fire destroyed key electric components needed to steer production processes. “Reestablishing the electric wiring in the plant is highly complex.”

Overall, around 130 kilometers of damaged cables have to be replaced.

“Given the amount of cables and their length, and the need to finally check all individual functionalities of the reinstalled systems, this is a highly complex and time-consuming task that requires a lot of coordination and planning.”

BASF said it has to replace about 550 pieces of equipment and selected parts of 200 pipelines in the plant. “Many of these parts are not immediately available and it will take several weeks until they arrive at the site and can be installed.”

There was only minor impact on structural components of the plant though.

BASF outlined the various milestones it has reached so far in the getting the citral plant back online:

The cleaning of all platforms is completed, and the entire fire area is accessible. The draining and flushing of all vessels and pipes in the fire area is finished, while the dismantling of insulation, cables and obviously damaged pieces of equipment on all platforms is also done.

In addition, the company said it has confirmed timely delivery dates for all pieces of equipment.

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