Why is the UK running out of CO2 and what will it mean?

Why is the UK running out of CO2 and what will it mean?

A carbon dioxide (CO2) shortage has led to fears of disruption to food and fizzy drink supplies in the UK.

Beer, fizzy drinks and meat producers have all warned of possible shortages and The British Poultry Council (BPC) has asked the Government and gas producers to give them priority over supplies to “keep the food chain moving”. Trade journal Gas World said the shortage had been described as the “worst supply situation to hit the European carbon dioxide (CO2) business in decades”.

So what’s going on?



What is the problem?

Food grade CO2 is used in the production of a wide variety of food and drink products. But with at least five CO2 producers across northern Europe offline, a shortfall in the gas is causing concern of shortages of beer, fizzy drinks, and meat. The current low price of ammonia has also meant producers have not restarted production quickly.

Is this just in the UK?

Yes. The European shortage has been exacerbated by three of UK’s largest CO2 plants closing for maintenance and only one major factory operating.

Why has this happened now?

Demand for beer and fizzy drinks is peaking as the summer heats up and football fans gather to watch the football World Cup. CO2 comes from ammonia plants that manufacture fertiliser. But in a case of extremely bad timing, peak consumption for food and drink is hitting as manufacturers shut down for summer maintenance work because demand for fertiliser peaks in winter.

CO2 is obviously needed for fizzy drinks, but why are food producers so concerned?

The meat industry primarily uses CO2 in the slaughtering process for pigs and poultry. Fresh food could also be affected by the shortage because suppliers use CO2 to keep products fresh during storage and transit.

How worried should we be?

The British Poultry Council has said the current shortage could have a “potentially huge effect” on British food production. The British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) has also said it is “very concerned” about the shortage, as CO2 is used in packing fresh meat and salads, while the British Soft Drinks Association said it is “impacting a wide range of businesses across the food and drink sector”.

How long is the shortage expected to last?

No one can say, definitively. Trade journal Gas World has reported that the shortage appears to be likely to continue for the remainder of June “at least”.

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