One of the specialty chemicals being talked about a lot in light of the chlorine shortages and rising prices are borates. As strong proponents of borates, it troubles us to say that our go-to sanitzer supplement may soon be facing the same shortages and rising costs that we’ve been seeing on the trichlor side.
What The Boron Shortage Means For The Pool Industry
If you’re in the pool business you already know, borates are becoming increasingly difficult to find. What inventory is available is vastly more expensive than in previous years. We’re already knee-deep into the dog days of summer and prices for chlorine have skyrocketed well past analysts’ projections.
A lot of pool service professionals have been turning to borates as the savior during this time of inflation and rising prices. Many technicians already use borates as a buffer against upwards shifting pH. When your pH level rises above what is deemed “normal” (about 7.8), using borates achieves optimum results.
Pool service professionals have been turning to borates in a time of rising prices for sanitizers like trichlor.
Why Pool Professionals Are Turning To Borates
Bacteria can thrive in water with a high pH level. When this happens it makes chlorine less effective. Pool professionals use borates to alleviate the issue, because it works to keep pH from drifting upward. In addition, there are other positive aspects to using borates in your pool. For one, it keeps the pool clear of algae and calcium scaling. Pool equipment repair specialists will be the first ones to recommend borates. When it comes to maintaining ideal water chemistry for your pool equipment, borates does an amazing job.
For the past few years, the adoption of borates by pool pros has steadily increased season after season. The concern now is that we may have hit maximum capacity as demand has increased well beyond available inventory.
Dwindling Boron Supplies Driving Prices Higher
The global boron market shortage is driving prices higher this season. For those who’ve been thinking of switching to using borates, this definitely is something to consider. When it comes to getting trichlor at affordable rates, it already feels that pool pros are a lower priority as far as it goes to maintaining pricing structures. Now, it appears the same thing has begun happening with borates.
Although borates and boric acid are near synonymous with pools, the swimming pool industry itself is actually a lower priority in terms of its consumption of boron. The industrial glass industry is the largest consumer of boron, roughly 48%, followed by the ceramics industry (15%) and agricultural industry (15%); the cleaning industry of which the pool industry represents a fraction consumes roughly 2% of the world’s boron.
Boron is in high demand. There are a myriad of applications for it aside from pool cleaning.
You’ll find boron in everything from industrial fertilizers to high-end ceramics and solar panels. Boron also has medical applications which improve wound healing and boosts the body’s usage of estrogen, testosterone, and vitamin D. It improves magnesium absorption, reduces inflammation, increases antioxidants, and boosts brain electrical activity in both cognitive performance as well as short-term memory.
What is absolutely certain is that we (the pool industry) didn’t cause a borates shortage. Clearly, demand is higher in these other industries which are causing prices to surge. Right now the boron supply chain is very weak. Over 60% of the material comes from mines located in Turkey which is the top producer, followed by Russia, South America and the United States.
For the time being, production is gradually declining. As existing boron reserves deplete, we’re seeing demand far exceed supplies, resulting in higher prices such as $1,250 per ton, far exceeding analysts’ predictions for $739 per ton.
While the demand in the U.S. by pool professionals may be high, the top consumer of boron is China, followed by India and Japan. Boron is produced domestically only in the State of California and it appears very little of it is earmarked towards maintaining supply chains for borates.
The story isn’t all doom and gloom for pool professionals who want to switch to borates. Fortunately, folks like Natural Chemistry, Brenntag, and others are still intent on keeping inventory on the shelves so you should still be able to find their products through distribution. If they don’t have borates available, demand that they replenish their stock. This may be the only way to guarantee the pool industry remains a priority at all.
Listen to our entire discussion on the Talking Pools podcast.