The Brewers Association (BA) trade group has warned their members about a potential shortfall in available carbon dioxide (CO2). “Preliminary data show that production of CO2 has decreased by approximately 20%, and experts predict that CO2 production may be reduced by 50% by mid-April,” the group said in a press statement today.
“The significant economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S., as well as related global economic trends, has significantly affected overall demand and production of industrial manufacturing that leads to CO2 capture,” the BA reasoned.
“Many industrial manufacturers have already idled their plants due to diminished demand leading to a decrease in CO2 access for industrial gas suppliers. Certain industrial gas companies have been forced to ration available CO2 products amongst essential business users, including food and beverage manufacturing plants,” the statement goes on.
“A shortage in CO2 would impact the U.S. availability of fresh food, preserved food and beverages, including beer production,” the BA concludes.
Carbon Dioxide is used throughout the brewery as a processing aid in the cellar and at the packaging line. While most brewers do not think of this gaseous compound as a traditional ingredient like hops, malt or water, a sure supply of high-quality CO2 is essential to maintaining and ensuring beer flavor quality.
Some breweries have processes or equipment whereby CO2 is separated from production related sources and stored for future use in carbonating and packaging beer. However, this investment does not make financial sense for everyone since the investment costs for collecting and liquefying CO2 is high in comparison to the cost of buying the needed CO2 from outside sources. Therefore only bigger breweries usually operate their own CO2 extraction plants.
Two years ago, the planned shutdowns for maintenance in spring and summer at major ammonia plants and a number of European bio-ethanol plants had already caused a severe shortage in available CO2 in the UK and Europe. At that time the situation was titled as the “worst supply situation to hit the European carbon dioxide (CO2) business in decades” (inside.beer, 21.6.2018).