The Ontario Energy Board issued an update to the revised Codes of Conduct supporting the Energy Consumer Protection Act (Ontario). Although the industry had anticipated automatic renewal of natural gas accounts on a month-to-month basis, the OEB confirmed that the automatic renewal of natural gas contracts will be allowed for a period of one year capped at the customer's existing rate. Only one automatic renewal will be allowed, emphasizing the need to positively convert automatic renewals to other products before the customer is returned to the utility at the end of the renewal term. Renewal notifications will require a standard disclosure form and a price comparison between fixed-price energy services' renewal price and the utility default rate.
Specialty Chemicals competes with sodium chlorate, chloralkali and potassium producers on a worldwide basis. Key competitive factors include price, product quality, logistics capability, reliability of supply, technical capability and service. The end-use markets for products are correlated to the general economic environment and the competitiveness of customers, all of which are outside of the segment's control, along with market pricing for pulp.
Specialty Chemicals has long-term electricity contracts or electricity contracts that renew automatically with power producers in each of the jurisdictions where its plants are located. There is no assurance that Specialty Chemicals will remain able to secure adequate supplies of electricity at reasonable prices or on acceptable terms.
Potassium chloride (KCl) is a major raw material used in the production of potassium hydroxide at the Port Edwards, Wisconsin facility. Substantially all of Specialty Chemicals KCl is received from Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan. Specialty Chemicals currently has a limited ability to source KCl from additional suppliers.
Specialty Chemicals is exposed to fluctuations in the US dollar and the euro versus the Canadian dollar. Specialty Chemicals manages its exposure to fluctuations between the US dollar and Canadian dollar by entering into hedge contracts with external third parties and internally with other Superior businesses.
Specialty Chemicals' operations involve the handling, production, transportation, treatment and disposal of materials that are classified as hazardous and are regulated by environmental and health and safety laws, regulations and requirements. There is potential for the release of highly toxic and lethal substances, including chlorine. Equipment failure could result in damage to facilities, death or injury and liabilities to third parties. If at any time the appropriate regulatory authorities deem any of the segment's facilities unsafe, they may order that such facilities be shut down.
Specialty Chemicals' operations and activities in various jurisdictions require regulatory approval for the handling, production, transportation and disposal of chemical products and waste substances. The failure to obtain or comply fully with such applicable regulatory approval may materially adversely affect Specialty Chemicals.
Specialty Chemicals' production facilities maintain complex process and electrical equipment. The facilities have existed for many years and undergone upgrades and improvements. Routine maintenance is regularly completed to ensure equipment is operated within appropriate engineering and technical requirements. Notwithstanding Specialty Chemicals' operating standards and history of limited downtime, breakdown of electrical transformer or rectifier equipment would temporarily reduce production at the affected facility. Although the segment has insurance coverage to mitigate substantial loss due to equipment outage, Specialty Chemicals' reputation and its ability to meet customer requirements could be negatively affected by a major electrical equipment failure.
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