UK: CO2 shortage is threatening beer supply

A carbon dioxide (CO2)  shortage is threatening supply of beer and meat products in the UK. Planned shutdowns for maintenance in spring and summer at major ammonia plants and a number of European bio-ethanol plants have left the UK with only one CO2 producer —and the whole of Northern Europe with only five.

It is the “worst supply situation to hit the European carbon dioxide (CO2) business in decades,” according to trade journal Gas World - and the shortage is likely to continue for the remainder of June "at least".

CO2 is not only used to produce carbonated drinks like soft drinks, beer and cider but is also used to draw the beer from the cask or keg.  It also used to pack fresh meat and salads to reduce perishability and oxidation of the products.

Food grade CO2 is mostly made at ammonia plants that manufacture fertilizer, which is in low demand during summer. That’s why many plants are doing their maintenance work during the summer month, which is at the same time the peak demand season for CO2. At least five CO2-producing ammonia plants across northern Europe offline have been offline for maintenance this year which unfortunately  coincides with unusually warm weather in late spring and the FIFA football world cup 2018 in Russia, which usually triggers demand for beer.  On Monday England won their opening match in Volgograd, Russia, against Tunesia 2-1, which did not help to relieve the situation.

"We've been informed by our CO₂ supplier that they are facing a major issue with supply availability in the UK," confirmed Heineken in a letter to their customers. The biggest brewer in the UK assured, it was "working with customers to minimize disruption."

Brigid Simmonds, head of the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), which represents brewers and 20,000 UK pubs, said she had asked CO₂ suppliers and producers to resume production of CO2 at the beginning of July, but was not sure if this would help to prevent stoppages in beer production.

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