CO2 shortage sparks concerns over food and drinks supplies

Article by Adam Duckett

Plant shutdowns disrupt UK production

BEER, fizzy drinks, and poultry supplies have faced disruption in the UK following a shortage of carbon dioxide.

Trade groups across the food and drinks industries warned their members could see production affected because plants that produce the gas have shut down across Europe.

News of the disruption was first reported in June by website Gasworld, describing it “as the worst supply situation to hit the European CO2 business in decades”.

Carbon dioxide is used across the food and drinks industry, including to put the fizz into beer and soft drinks, to stun livestock during the slaughter process, and during packaging to increase the shelf-life of foods.

The key industrial producer of CO2 is ammonia plants which are responsible for around 45% of supply, according to Gasworld. The ammonia is used to produce fertiliser, but demand for this product peaks in winter so manufacturers shut down for routine maintenance around March to May. With ammonia costs low and the price for natural gas used to produce it high, manufacturers have prolonged shutdowns. 

The situation has been made worse as plants attempting to restart production have been forced by technical issues to close down again for repairs. At least five CO2 producers in northern Europe are offline for maintenance and seasonal shutdowns have left the UK with only two of its own five key producers in operation, as we go to press.

On top of this there have been disruptions from other producers, including bioethanol plants, and a heat wave across Europe has increased drinks demand.


This article is adapted from an earlier online version.

Article by Adam Duckett

Editor, The Chemical Engineer

Recent Editions

Catch up on the latest news, views and jobs from The Chemical Engineer. Below are the four latest issues. View a wider selection of the archive from within the Magazine section of this site.