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Food Ingredients

Europe sweats over CO2 shortage

Production at Coca-Cola is interrupted as hot weather drives surge in demand

by Alex Scott
June 28, 2018 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 96, ISSUE 27

European beer and soda drinkers could be left feeling a little flat this summer. Maintenance shutdowns at major suppliers of food-grade CO2 have combined with a period of unusually hot weather across Europe to create a shortage of the gas for some food and drink producers.

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Credit: Shutterstock
Major drinks producers, including Coca-Cola, have been affected by Europe's food-grade CO2 shortage.

European industrial gas distributors including Air Liquide, Linde, and Praxair have been affected by the CO2 shortage, with supply tightest in the U.K.

A large volume of food-grade CO2 is made as a by-product during the manufacture of ammonia. Many European ammonia producers close their plants for maintenance during the summer, when demand for fertilizers slows. But this year, plant shutdowns are being prolonged because ammonia prices are low and raw material costs are high. Consequently, ammonia producers have been importing—not making—some product.

Meanwhile, the hot weather and the World Cup have caused a spike in demand for carbonated drinks in the region, beverage producers say.

European food companies big and small say they are facing a CO2 shortage. Coca-Cola in recent days disclosed that the shortage has forced it to interrupt production in the U.K. “Our focus is on limiting the effect this may have on the availability of our products,” the firm says.

Booker, a wholesaler of drinks to bars, restaurants, and shops in the U.K., is limiting purchases of cases of beer, cider, and soft drinks to 10 per customer. And the shortage has gone beyond the beverage sector. Quality Pork, a Scottish firm that uses CO2 to stun animals before slaughter, has temporarily halted operations.

“It is worrying that failures in the gas sector can have such a potentially huge effect on British food production,” says Richard Griffiths, CEO of the British Poultry Council, an industry group.

While the hot weather and World Cup are set to continue, the CO2 shortage may soon ease. BASF recently restarted its big ammonia plant in Ludwigshafen, Germany. The firm says that it faces increased demand for CO2 from beverage customers but that it should be able to meet it.

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