According to The Gas Review, the liquefied carbon dioxide (LCO2) and dry ice market in the summer of 2018 is being hit harder than normal by overlapping maintenance schedules, longer periods of scheduled maintenance and a series of plant troubles at raw gas sources.

Although there are variations in degree, it is thought that from April through June 23 of the 33 LCO2 and dry ice production locations across Japan were undergoing scheduled maintenance or having troubles that temporarily stopped production.

The four main producers worked hard to acquire raw materials, but still ended up adjusting shipments in some cases.

Normally, May and June not only bring normal supply demands but see production facilities operating at full capacity to increase stocks in preparation for the peak demand in summer. However, restarting plants that serve as sources of the raw gas material from scheduled maintenance was delayed from around the beginning of May, and also unexpected plant troubles hindered securing sufficient liquefied gas stocks.

With eliminations and reductions in sources, tight supply has become the norm over the past few years in the LCO2 and dry ice business, but all persons in charge at producers say that they have “never experienced such strict conditions over all of Japan for such an extended period of time.”

Information collected from the end of June to the beginning of July by The Gas Review from the four main suppliers shows that all four companies have been adjusting shipments from after the end of the May holiday period.

Dry ice imported from overseas was previously a stopgap measure to get through the peak season, but now with shortages of raw gas material within Japan, importing dry ice is now essential to stable supply.

According to trade statistics, 23,833 tonnes of dry ice was imported in 2017, remaining over the 20,000 tonnes mark for another year after imports increased greatly due to autumn plant troubles in 2016.

In 2018, imports for May alone reached 3,400 tonnes, three times the imports for the same month last year.

However, importing dry ice presents problems, such as large evaporation loss and increasing shipping costs. The dilemma is that the more imports increase, the harder it becomes to produce a profit.

Furthermore, South Korea, who exports most of this dry ice to Japan, is also experiencing greater demand, and here are many factors reducing the raw gas material, such as lower gasoline demand and overlapping facility problems at raw gas sources.

Therefore, it seems harder than ever for South Korea itself to procure the volume which Japanese producers expect.