Thursday, February 25th 2021

Report: TSMC and UMC are Trucking in Water Amid Shortages

Manufacturing silicon is no easy task. You need to have all the right supplies available all the time. One of the most used ingredients in silicon manufacturing is water. Almost every process needs it and it needs to be constantly available to the manufacturer. According to the report coming from Reuters, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) and United Microelectronics Corporation (UMC) are experiencing water shortages. The Taiwan island is in trouble, as the typhoon season has been rather mild and water supplies are at the historic lows. Water restrictions are in place all across the island and the reservoirs in the center and southern regions are at only 20% capacity.

The lack of water is a big problem for TSMC and UMC, as both companies rely on the constant income of it. With water restrictions in place, TSMC has to keep its facilities running and needs to solve the problem. That is why Taiwan's biggest silicon manufacturer is now making small orders of waters, delivered by a truckload. TSMC expects to compensate for the lack of water coming from its regular sources with truckloads of it. While we do not know the numbers of it, we can expect the water use to be very high if we take into account the number of wafers TSMC produces at its facilities.
Source: Reuters
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37 Comments on Report: TSMC and UMC are Trucking in Water Amid Shortages

#1
Prima.Vera
Interesting. We are on a planet with 71% of the surface filled with water, but they still lack of it for industrial purposes....
Posted on Reply
#2
Jack1n
Prima.Vera
Interesting. We are on a planet with 71% of the surface filled with water, but they still lack of it for industrial purposes....
You understand that puriflying salt water is not free, right?
Posted on Reply
#3
Legacy-ZA
Jack1n
You understand that puriflying salt water is not free, right?
With all the profit they make, billions and billions and BILLIONS, do you think I care about such a pathetic excuse? No, they can easily afford it. Fewer excuses, more output.
Posted on Reply
#4
Jack1n
Legacy-ZA
With all the profit they make, billions and billions and BILLIONS, do you think I care about such a pathetic excuse? No, they can easily afford it. Fewer excuses, more output.
They can afford it for sure but it is probably cheaper to truck in fresh water from elsewhere. Not to mention that this is a temporary situation that only needs to be handled short term. As far as output, I did not see it being mentioned in this article that it is affected by this.
Posted on Reply
#5
TheLostSwede
Ok, so for those that don't live in Taiwan and that don't understand the local watery supply issues, here's a short primer.

Taiwan is an island, not a particularly big one, nor tiny. That said, Taiwan relies entirely on man made reservoirs for the water supply, as there are very few natural lakes due to the geography of Taiwan.
The highest mountain in Taiwan is nearly 4,000m high, with the central and eastern parts of Taiwan mainly being highly elevated mountain terrain. This has the effect that the rainfall is quickly washed out into the ocean.
As such, the government has built a range of reservoirs over the years to try and prevent the rainwater from rushing out into the ocean straight away.
Unfortunately some of these reservoirs have been filling up with silt and other sediment due to illegal construction, as well as dumping of unwanted materials and obviously some natural deposits. This has lead to the actual volume of several reservoirs to be lowered quite significantly.
On top of this, there were almost no typhoons hitting Taiwan last year, which is a big source of freshwater. This past winter and spring has also been unusually dry.
As such, there has been a water shortage in the central and southern parts of Taiwan since late last year.
It doesn't help that people are clueless when it come to water conservation here (dumb example, our ex neighbours had a sprinkler system in their 15-ish square meter garden, that was running on a timer, so even if it was pissing down, it would kick in) and that the water pipes are old and leaky, partially thanks to constant quakes hitting the island.
There's no shortage of water in the northern part of the island, as yet though, but there are also very few chip fabs up here.
It should be noted that water shortages happen every few years in Taiwan, so this is nothing really new. The government is also looking at building more reservoirs.
Note that Taiwan does have reverse osmosis facilities for purifying seawater, but as pointed out, these are not free to operate.

Anyone interested in seeing the current water levels in the various reservoirs can have a look here.
eng.wra.gov.tw/

An additional note is that at least TSMC claim that they recycle most of their water they use for chip production, although I guess some of it is being lost somewhere, so they have to add some more into the system at some point.
Posted on Reply
#6
Arcdar
The issue is not water shortage, or the need for "desalitation" (which, actually, if you combine solar + wave-power can be had for little to no money on top of the hardware you need) the issue is that they don't have the same forced sustainability-approaches as we have in Europe.

They could easily have the correct facilities to clean/purify the water in a way that it is usable afterwards (maybe not for drinking) but as it is right now they just flush what they don't need into the environment, let it take care of itself.



If they would have a similar recycling/upcycling solution as European companies are forced to have it would be different. And not even more expensive (as you save a lot by being able to reuse water - sustainability is actually not a
big cost factor, used wisely it can save a lot of money - only the implementation costs a bit) as it is right now. And they wouldn't get into situations as right now, where they have issues as the water they flush out of the system is so toxic/ruined that they can't even re-use it for semiconductor production again......

which says a lot about how this water is leaving the factory and what this means for the environment (plants / animals AND humans living "down river" from the plants)
Posted on Reply
#7
DeathtoGnomes
Jack1n
You understand that puriflying salt water is not free, right?
its cheaper to purify urine for reuse..
Posted on Reply
#8
TheLostSwede
Arcdar
The issue is not water shortage, or the need for "desalitation" (which, actually, if you combine solar + wave-power can be had for little to no money on top of the hardware you need) the issue is that they don't have the same forced sustainability-approaches as we have in Europe.

They could easily have the correct facilities to clean/purify the water in a way that it is usable afterwards (maybe not for drinking) but as it is right now they just flush what they don't need into the environment, let it take care of itself.



If they would have a similar recycling/upcycling solution as European companies are forced to have it would be different. And not even more expensive (as you save a lot by being able to reuse water - sustainability is actually not a
big cost factor, used wisely it can save a lot of money - only the implementation costs a bit) as it is right now. And they wouldn't get into situations as right now, where they have issues as the water they flush out of the system is so toxic/ruined that they can't even re-use it for semiconductor production again......

which says a lot about how this water is leaving the factory and what this means for the environment (plants / animals AND humans living "down river" from the plants)
Sorry, but have you even been to Taiwan?
Please don't confuse Taiwan with China.
There are quite strict environmental laws here and you can't just dump whatever you want in nature. It might've been like that here 20+ years ago, but not these days.

You really have no idea what you're talking about. If TSMC did what you're claiming, they're would be massive protests outside of their fabs and the local environmental agency would be shutting them down. Please educate yourself before making ridiculously stupid comments.

csr.tsmc.com/csr/en/focus/greenManufacturing/waterResourceManagement.html
csr.tsmc.com/csr/en/focus/greenManufacturing/wasteManagement.html
csr.tsmc.com/csr/en/focus/greenManufacturing/airPollutionControl.html
Posted on Reply
#9
stimpy88
Why am I not surprised that a company that chooses how much profit it wants to make, does not recycle some or all of it's own water... Que the next price hike...
Posted on Reply
#10
TheLostSwede
stimpy88
Why am I not surprised that a company that chooses how much profit it wants to make, does not recycle some or all of it's own water... Que the next price hike...
Did you even look at the links provided above?
They even cut down on kitchen waste water ffs.

Also:

The average recycling rate of the water used in production processes reached 86.7% in 2019, the total amount of water recycled by TSMC reached 133.6 million tons and surpassing annual water saving targets by 187%.

Posted on Reply
#11
stimpy88
TheLostSwede
Did you even look at the links provided above?
They even cut down on kitchen waste water ffs.

Also:
From what I can gather from that link you provided, they currently say that they recycle 39% of all their waste water into industrial water, which I assume they use 100% of? These figures are also from before they substantially ramped up production. I wonder what the total fresh water in versus total water out now is?

At least they are trying, but to me it's unclear just how much of this recycled water is actually going back into their production. Also Industrial waste water does not sound like water fit for their production, or does "Industrial Water" mean water fit for their production purposes?
Posted on Reply
#12
TheLostSwede
stimpy88
From what I can gather from that link you provided, they currently say that they recycle 39% of all their waste water into industrial water, which I assume they use 100% of? These figures are also from before they substantially ramped up production. I wonder what the total fresh water in versus total water out now is?

At least they are trying, but to me it's unclear just how much of this recycled water is actually going back into their production. Also Industrial waste water does not sound like water fit for their production, or does "Industrial Water" mean water fit for their production purposes?
You did not see my quote above?
Nor read the full page of information?
Posted on Reply
#13
Valantar
It's good to know TSMC is working (seemingly hard) at water recycling, as that is the only even remotely sustainable approach to solving issues like this. You can't control the weather, so making your operations as independent of it as possible is a far better approach. Dependency on cyclically regenerating resources that might fail due to entirely uncontrollable factors is rather problematic in the long run.

And yes, as a massively profitable multi-billion-dollar business they would be a prime candidate for using desalination plants, but that depends on said plants actually existing in sufficient amounts (and not being needed for fundamental necessities like drinking water). And of course there's the question of how they are powered. The world is definitely going to need more desalination in the coming decades, but we also need clean energy to power those plants, otherwise we're just going to keep making things worse.
Posted on Reply
#14
Wr1x
Prima.Vera
Interesting. We are on a planet with 71% of the surface filled with water, but they still lack of it for industrial purposes....
Can't apply saltwaters to electronics.
Posted on Reply
#15
TheLostSwede
Valantar
It's good to know TSMC is working (seemingly hard) at water recycling, as that is the only even remotely sustainable approach to solving issues like this. You can't control the weather, so making your operations as independent of it as possible is a far better approach. Dependency on cyclically regenerating resources that might fail due to entirely uncontrollable factors is rather problematic in the long run.

And yes, as a massively profitable multi-billion-dollar business they would be a prime candidate for using desalination plants, but that depends on said plants actually existing in sufficient amounts (and not being needed for fundamental necessities like drinking water). And of course there's the question of how they are powered. The world is definitely going to need more desalination in the coming decades, but we also need clean energy to power those plants, otherwise we're just going to keep making things worse.
TSMC has started to install solar panels on all their buildings in Taiwan. Still far from enough to run the fabs, but at least it allows them to power most non critical electrical systems, such as offices, elevators, AC etc. They also buy the most renewable energy of any company in Taiwan.
Apart from purchasing renewable energy, TSMC has also installed solar panels at its sites, providing zerocarbon emission renewable energy for fabs. In 2018, 1,114 kW of solar panel capacity was installed, and has already provided 3 GWh. In 2019, an additional 2,000 kW in capacity of solar panels will be added.
csr.tsmc.com/download/csr/2018_tsmc_csr_report_published_May_2019/english/pdf/e_CSR2018_ch4_1.pdf

They're a very progressive company when it comes to all of this and it's not just feel good stuff.
csr.tsmc.com/csr/en/focus/greenManufacturing/climateChangeAndEnergy.html
Posted on Reply
#16
Fatalfury
early Last year it was Fire...this year.. oh yea its WATER!!
Posted on Reply
#17
laszlo
they should haul icebergs there :D
Posted on Reply
#18
TheLostSwede
Fatalfury
early Last year it was Fire...this year.. oh yea its WATER!!
You know, this isn't made up. Read my first post in the thread.

This is most likely affecting TSMCs fabs in Taichung and Tainan worse than the ones in Hsinchu, since Taichung and Tainan are further south than Hsinchu, but you knew that, right?

Normally Taiwan gets most of it's rain courtesy of typhoons, but there was only one that really brought any rain last year. The next rain season doesn't normally start until the latter half of April, which is when what they call the plum rain seasons starts.

So far, none of this has affected the manufacturing and it's unlikely it ever will. I would expect the Taiwanese government to cut off water to a lot of other companies before they do it to the chip makers.

I'm curious what the agenda of some of you are here. Yes, there's a bit of a dry spell here, so TSMC and UMC had to source water from other parts of the island. Exactly how does this affect your lives?
laszlo
they should haul icebergs there :D
You going to be the skipper?
Posted on Reply
#19
bonehead123
Sounds like they will be the scalpers next target, hehehehe :)
Posted on Reply
#20
DeathtoGnomes
TheLostSwede
You going to be the skipper?
I looking for a meme for this but couldnt find an image of an iceberg with an old wooden steering wheel or wheelhouse.
Posted on Reply
#21
TheLostSwede
DeathtoGnomes
I looking for a meme for this but couldnt find an image of an iceberg with an old wooden steering wheel or wheelhouse.
Apparently this is the British (and weirdly not the American) version of that.

Posted on Reply
#22
mechtech
Build a Fab in Canada, we have water :)
Posted on Reply
#23
lexluthermiester
One would think that these companies would have the foresight to use filtration systems and recycle their water. Common sense really.
Posted on Reply
#24
Valantar
TheLostSwede
Apparently this is the British (and weirdly not the American) version of that.


Pykrete is one of the coolest inventions that never panned out.
lexluthermiester
One would think that these companies would have the foresight to use filtration systems and recycle their water. Common sense really.
Didn't read the thread? Reaching 100% water recycling is really, really difficult after all.
Posted on Reply
#25
mechtech
TheLostSwede
Ok, so for those that don't live in Taiwan and that don't understand the local watery supply issues, here's a short primer.

Taiwan is an island, not a particularly big one, nor tiny. That said, Taiwan relies entirely on man made reservoirs for the water supply, as there are very few natural lakes due to the geography of Taiwan.
The highest mountain in Taiwan is nearly 4,000m high, with the central and eastern parts of Taiwan mainly being highly elevated mountain terrain. This has the effect that the rainfall is quickly washed out into the ocean.
As such, the government has built a range of reservoirs over the years to try and prevent the rainwater from rushing out into the ocean straight away.
Unfortunately some of these reservoirs have been filling up with silt and other sediment due to illegal construction, as well as dumping of unwanted materials and obviously some natural deposits. This has lead to the actual volume of several reservoirs to be lowered quite significantly.
On top of this, there were almost no typhoons hitting Taiwan last year, which is a big source of freshwater. This past winter and spring has also been unusually dry.
As such, there has been a water shortage in the central and southern parts of Taiwan since late last year.
It doesn't help that people are clueless when it come to water conservation here (dumb example, our ex neighbours had a sprinkler system in their 15-ish square meter garden, that was running on a timer, so even if it was pissing down, it would kick in) and that the water pipes are old and leaky, partially thanks to constant quakes hitting the island.
There's no shortage of water in the northern part of the island, as yet though, but there are also very few chip fabs up here.
It should be noted that water shortages happen every few years in Taiwan, so this is nothing really new. The government is also looking at building more reservoirs.
Note that Taiwan does have reverse osmosis facilities for purifying seawater, but as pointed out, these are not free to operate.

Anyone interested in seeing the current water levels in the various reservoirs can have a look here.
eng.wra.gov.tw/

An additional note is that at least TSMC claim that they recycle most of their water they use for chip production, although I guess some of it is being lost somewhere, so they have to add some more into the system at some point.
Neat

Snow levels here
svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/2983

;)
Posted on Reply
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