Samsung, Infineon, and NXP Shut Down Fabs During Texas Power Crisis
The ongoing power shortage across Texas has forced grid operators to take extraordinary steps to help keep power flowing over the state. Multiple companies with fabs near Austin happen to be ordered to seal down completely, including Samsung, Infineon, and NXP.
The largest immediate cause of the rolling blackouts and outages was Texas’ inability to provide sufficient gas for both electricity as well as heat. Frozen pipelines hindered electricity production across the state. There have been also reports of some problems with frozen wind turbines and decreased power output from solar, but renewables give a smaller fraction of Texas’ total electricity than natural gas. Below freezing temperatures have hobbled the entire energy infrastructure from the state. Questions are also raised concerning the tendency for infrastructure repairs to be conducted mostly in the winter months, and about the intelligence of keeping Texas’ power grid almost entirely disconnected in the rest of the nation.
The Austin American Statesman reports that plant operators were first asked to conserve energy prior to being inspired to curtail production and finally, to seal down altogether.
“With prior notice, appropriate measures have safely been taken for that facilities and wafers in production,” Samsung spokeswoman Michele Glaze said. “We will resume production as soon as power is restored. We're discussing timing with the proper authorities.”
Samsung’s Austin fab builds products on 14nm, 28nm, and 32nm. Its 14nm presumably extends right down to what Samsung calls 11nm (it’s just 14nm with a few variants). Orders for Samsung 14nm chips have been demonstrated to possess surged this past year as multiple fabless Chinese companies ordered hardware, there were reports that Intel may have used Samsung like a second source for many 14nm products last year. Based on what NXP, Infineon, and Samsung were building, and how long the shutdowns last, we could see ripple effects in the larger market — though at this time, it’s anyone’s guess if you’d really be in a position to tell.
Some 200,000 individuals Austin remain without power and the article notes Austin Energy is contacting owners of buildings within the downtown area, asking to turn off skyscrapers along with other facilities to ensure that power could be redirected elsewhere. Images of brightly lit (and completely empty) skyscrapers while thousands and thousands are without power haven't gone over well.
Idling a fab in the middle of production will assuredly destroy some wafers and facilities can’t be instantly cut back as much as full speed, either. Both Texas and California grids have now buckled in various seasons, with California’s collapsing last summer and Texas’s failing this winter.