For The Chemical Show’s last episode of 2021, Victoria Meyer looks back on the most significant events of the year for the chemical industry. From the newest policies implemented, the disasters that shook the world, and the issues that made everyone rethink, she goes through them all. Victoria also highlights one event that contributes to the progress of the chemical industry and also very close to her heart.

Watch the episode here:

 

The Chemical Industry’s 10 Most Significant Events Of 2021

 

 

This is the last episode of 2021. I’m excited to be here. It’s been a journey and with some great responses and from people across the industry, a number of amazing guests and more. I’m here to say we’re wrapping up 2021 and I’m looking forward to 2022 and seeing where the show goes. One of the things I’m looking forward to in 2022 is launching The Chemical Community. The Chemical Community is going to be an online community just for chemical industry professionals, where we can engage in dialogues on topics related to the show, have some live expert discussions and Q&As, get access to the show’s guests and much more.
 
From the feedback I’ve gotten from folks who have read this, people want more engagement. They want to have a chance to have more of a conversation about what’s going on in the industry in a pretty safe and protected environment and that’s what The Chemical Community will do. Head on over to TheChemicalCommunity.com to get signed up and be part of the chemical community as we roll forward.
 

US Gulf Coast Winter Freeze

 
I am going to be talking about the top ten events of 2021. We’re doing this a little bit David Letterman style, for those of you that have watched David Letterman. We’re going to be counting down 10 to 1. They are not necessarily in any particular order but it’s in order. Here we go. Number ten is the US Gulf Coast winter freeze, otherwise known as Winter Storm Uri that happened in February of 2021. It was unanticipated.
 
What we saw in the industry was a number of our US Gulf Coast facilities having to shut down in very short order in a less than ideal fashion and having their equipment and plants go through the tremendous freeze. Energy issues, freezing plants, unfortunately, caused some delays, slow start-ups, delays in the product. I put this US Gulf Coast winter freeze as one of my top ten events in 2021. People who commented or voted on a poll on LinkedIn thought of the same thing.
 

China’s Energy Policy And Shortages

 
The number nine item is China’s energy policy and the energy shortages. There are a lot of things going on there but what we’ve seen is rolling blackouts across the industry affecting many chemical producers that have been exporting products into the US. Some of it is related to growth. Some of it is potentially related to China’s policy as it goes into the Winter Olympics, which are being held in February 2022. I have the China energy policy and electricity policies as number nine.
 

Hurricane Ida

 
Number eight, Hurricane Ida, which hit Louisiana in August 2021. Just as chemical companies in Louisiana and even Texas were recovering from the freeze in February 2021, it’s a long time for some companies to recover, along comes a hurricane. Deep in the heart of the US Gulf Coast, hurricanes are a fact of life. Hurricane Ida hits land in Louisiana as a Category 4. It caused tremendous damage not just to plants and equipment but also to the people that are working in those facilities.
 
 
It caused a tremendous shutdown on the chemical industry for those facilities. They had to go through and recover tremendous challenges on a logistics system that had already been challenged. I heard stories of washed-out railroad lines. The good news is people across the industry are creative. Through that creativity, they’ve managed to recover and find alternatives but Hurricane Ida hit the top ten.
 

UK Energy And Natural Gas Markets

 
Number seven is the UK energy and natural gas markets. What we saw in summer 2021 is not enough carbonation for fizzy drinks. What the heck is going on there? All of a sudden, people across the UK and Europe understood a little bit more about the interconnectedness of the chemical markets. A lot of this had to do with very high net gas prices, making it not affordable for the fertilizer plants and some other plants to produce and they shut down. That was a problem across the UK for their food in particular industries and others until the government had to step in and create some alternative solutions.
 
As we sit here in December 2021, we’re still in the early part of winter and the expectation is that net gas prices in Europe and North America aren’t going to be very high. That has an impact, not just on consumers but also on our chemical industry, profitability and ability to operate. It’s wind and natural gas and we didn’t even talk about the wind part of it.
 
 
The wind story is that in the UK wind farms in the North Sea, there was less wind. Therefore, less energy and had to fire up the old coal fire plants. There’s this whole interconnectedness that people understand and understand more. We have to have policies that understand the intent but also the unintended consequences of those actions.
 

COP 26

 
Number six, I’m saying this is COP26, the gathering in Glasgow around sustainability as we look at greenhouse gases, carbon and other things. I identified that event as a milestone, although this is part of an ongoing topic that folks across the chemical industry are working on. The event in Glasgow manifests into something significant. On the surface, it did not appear to have great impacts and any great answers, direction or strategy coming out of it. As we know, in many cases, it may be a slow roll and we’re going to start seeing impacts from it over in 2022.
 
 

COVID Vaccine Availability

 
Number five is COVID vaccine availability. I hesitate to put COVID in but COVID is reality. What is hard to remember as we now are at the end of 2021, in January 2022 is when the first vaccines were widely available in the US, Europe and elsewhere across the world. That has had a significant impact in terms of the availability for people to travel and all the knock-on effects it has on chemical and energy demand.
 
It’s the ability of people to gather together again in large groups. We’re starting to see more events, activities and conferences happening so we can finally get back to being in person. It affects workplace plants and whether people are going back into their hybrid offices. I’ve found personally through the chemical industry folks I talk with. Many of them already have open offices. There are still some especially some of the biggest players, working through their policies whether people are in the office on a full-time basis or hybrid basis.
 

Supply Chain

 
However, we could all agree. No matter what your opinion is about vaccinating or don’t vaccinate, required or don’t, the COVID vaccine availability that we’ve seen has been a significant milestone for the world and the chemical industry in 2021. Number four is the supply chain. I hate to throw this out there because the supply chain covers a wide variety of things. I want to maybe focus on the challenges we’ve seen of international supply chains, products coming from China to the US, Europe to the US or US to Europe.
 
You look at the challenges that we’ve had on moving products across countries and continents, which is something that we’ve come to rely on, both as individuals. You look around our homes and offices and see the products made all over the world and in the chemical industry. Many of our raw materials and finished goods and products, we are reliant on international transport and sale of those products.
The supply chain is a challenge. Those unexpected port closures that came about several times in 2021 due to COVID case flare-ups in areas are one of the big, significant things. The other story that goes along with that is how retailers and consumer products are taking up space. They’ve got the ability to charter entire ship’s containers and have a buying power in excess of what many chemical companies have. That’s been one of the big challenges.
 

Labor Issues

 
One of the significant events of 2021 is labor issues. When I talked to people across the industry whether they’re chemical producers, logistics providers, customers, like my conversation with Emelia Nosser from Pactiv Evergreen. Labor is a challenge. We’ve seen a number of people across the chemical industry are at a point where they are ready to retire. The industry is getting older. We’re starting to bring in younger people but it’s a transition that’s hard to manage in the current environment that we’re in. We’ve seen labor across a number of reasons and all around the globe, we see that challenge.
 

Retailers Buying Cargo Space

 
I had number two as major retailers buying cargo space. I already talked about that. I might skip past number two. Number one, the most significant event in the chemical industry in 2021, The Chemical Show launched. This has been a great excitement. Here’s a little bit of self-promotion but The Chemical Show is filling a void in the industry that is needed. We’ve had some amazing and awesome leaders come on the show.
 
 

The Chemical Show

 
Starting with Brad Beauchamp, who was my very first interview. Brad, thank you for having faith in me and joining the show. John Foley, I’m going to go through all of them, Patrick Ropella, Neil Burns. There were a lot of people that joined me on the show back. There have been over 30 episodes. If you haven’t read them, read them. I appreciate the people that read. Thank you. We are going to continue this journey in 2022. I hope that 2022 is amazing for the chemical industry. We see things start to level out and don’t have some of these crazy events that occurred in 2021.
 
I hope that you keep reading show that you seek out and join The Chemical Community, which is launching. I’m pretty excited about that. Go forth and conquer. Thanks for joining me. I appreciate you. Like, read, follow and share. I need every one of you to keep doing that. Thank you. Happy New Year.
 
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