A spectre is haunting Europe—the spectre of a carbon dioxide (CO2) shortage. Breweries and other carbonated drink producer are bracing for impact and searching for solutions as supplies of the key ingredient in their beverages dries up.
The CO2 shortage is actually attributable to an ammonia shortage. For those who don’t remember high school chem class, CO2 is a byproduct of ammonia production. Unfortunately, five of the six major ammonia plants on the continent shut down for maintenance and repairs during the summer months. However, the supplies this summer are at historic lows.
“What has compounded the situation this year is not only the timing of all the maintenance procedures, but that ammonia market prices have fallen to a low and imports are available from outside of Western Europe that has led to European producers prolonging the downtime of the ammonia plants within the region,” Joanna Sampson at Gas World explained. “Also, due to the higher pricing of natural gas—a major raw material for ammonia production—the margins in the ammonia business are not that attractive.”
What does all this technical jargon mean? Well, carbonated drinks in Europe will be a little more scarce. Many attributed the much ballyhooed Russia World Cup beer shortage to the gas issue.
Coca-Cola temporarily stopped some of their bottling lines in the UK. “We are currently responding to an industrywide issue that is impacting the supply of C02 in the U.K. Our focus is on limiting the effect this may have on the availability of our products,” a Coca-Cola European Partners Great Britain spokesperson declared in a statement.
Booker, the largest wholesaler in the hard hit British Isles, implemented a ration program for beer, cider, and soft drinks. (Elsewhere in England, Warburton’s had to scale down reduction of their iconic crumpets!) Germany’s Radeberger Gruppe AG is also operating under a careful ration system.
Norway’s Aass Brewery temporarily ceased operations altogether. The city of Oslo uses CO2 in their water purification process; consequently, residents are under drought protocols which forbid acts like watering your lawn.
The vital gas is also used to extend the shelf life of packaged meats and produce as well as to create dry ice necessary for shipping frozen foods.
There is a little bit of hope on the horizon. The closed plants are all scheduled to reopen in fall, and some are accelerating their time frame due to demand.
Photo courtesy Alpha Stock Images CC BY-SA 3.0