Maquiladoras cope with natural gas shortages in Juarez

Border Report

Texas producers prioritize service in U.S.; Northern Mexico industry and residents must make do with what they have

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – U.S.-run plants in Juarez are also coping with the gas shortages plaguing much of Texas and Northern Mexico.

Chihuahua Gov. Javier Corral late Tuesday said most of the available natural gas supply would be used to keep hospitals and homes warm. He said the industrial sector would see shortages through the end of the week.

A winter storm that slammed into the region Saturday and Sunday disrupted electrical and natural gas service in most of Texas. It also forced Texas producers to cut back or hike the price of their exports to Mexico.

On Tuesday, one in three homes in Juarez were without electricity or gas. Service was being restored to much of the city on Wednesday, but it was the industrial sector that was being asked to bear the brunt of the gas shortage.

“The Mexican gas company said they’re having rolling blackouts. We got the notice and we’re watching the situation carefully because that affects a lot of our business on this side of the border as well,” said Jerry Pacheco, president and CEO of the New Mexico-based Border Industrial Association.

Mexican news reports said several U.S.-run maquiladoras had shut down operations since Monday due to the shortages.

Pacheco said he was only aware of limited cut-offs that nonetheless were interfering with production of parts and goods to be shipped back to the United States.

“It’s not that a plant has to shut down for three days or something. It’s hours here, hours there but it’s still very disruptive. You can’t keep a production line going like that when you have employees sitting idle in a plant or sent home,” he said.

Ramon Martinez, a spokesman for Gas Natural de Juarez, a Mexican utility, told KTSM that most of the available fuel would be routed to homes, hospitals and other essential businesses. He said businesses and industry could expect their supply restored by early next week.

Meantime, dozens of Juarez residents lined up at propane gas distribution facilities in an effort to keep their stoves and gas-powered heaters running with temperatures still only in the low 50s.

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