Beer could fall flat for World Cup as CO2 runs short: A shortage of CO2 could take the fizz out of beer and other sparkling drinks this summer, just as the World Cup and barbecue season get underway.
The UK has only one big plant producing carbon dioxide currently open, threatening to leave drinks makers high and dry.
“It’s already stopping production,” said Brigid Simmonds, head of the British Beer and Pub Association.
She has written to CO2 producers asking them to rectify the situation.
Demand for beer and fizzy drinks is peaking as fans gather to watch the football, thanks to the recent run of hot weather.
Carbon dioxide doesn’t just put the fizz into soft drinks, canned and bottled beers. It also delivers beer at the pub pumps and is additionally used to pack fresh meat and salads.
It comes from ammonia plants that manufacture fertilizer. But as demand for fertilizer peaks in winter, manufacturers often shut down during the summer for maintenance work.
Currently at least five CO2 producers across northern Europe are offline for maintenance, according to trade publication Gasworld, which first reported the issue.
Gasworld said carbonated drinks producers were now “desperate” amid the worst CO2 supply crisis for decades.
The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), which represents brewers and 20,000 UK pubs, said the CO2 shortage was beginning to cause stoppages in beer production, although it did not name specific companies.
As much as 82% of beer consumed in the UK is produced here, requiring carbon dioxide. Ms. Simmonds said.
She said she had written to CO2 suppliers and one producer had said it would be able to get limited production back on stream at the beginning of July.
“You could have foreseen this. We’ve got the World Cup, which is as exciting in Germany as it is here,” said Ms. Simmonds
“Quite why they didn’t anticipate this, I don’t know.”
The BBPA has also issued some guidance to its members reminding them that CO2 used in drinks, including for dispensing beer at the pumps, must be food grade CO2.
“We’d be concerned this is not the time to go looking for a white van man who says they can supply you with CO2,” she said.
Gavin Partington, director general at the British Soft Drinks Association, said soft drinks producers were “taking active steps to maintain their service to customers”.
He said that also included working with their suppliers and looking at alternative sources of CO2.
The UK is particularly hard hit by the shortages, according to Gasworld, because only one major CO2 plant is still operating and imports from the European mainland have been affected by shutdowns in northern Europe.
The UK is a large market for carbon dioxide and imports about a third of its CO2 needs. It has a vast range of applications in industry, with one of the main uses being the manufacture of dry ice to chill airline meals.
The UK has a number of plants that produce CO2, but three of the four largest are currently down for maintenance or technical reasons.
Gasworld said the heatwave in May had boosted demand for fizzy drinks across northern Europe at a time when ammonia plants producing CO2 as a by-product were closed. The current low price of ammonia meant producers were not restarting production quickly.
Carbon dioxide production also comes from bioethanol plants, and as a by-product from whiskey distilleries in Scotland. But these tend to be on a smaller scale and one UK bioethanol plant is also currently closed.
While there were ready supplies of carbon dioxide in southern Europe, including Hungary and Romania, transporting it to northern Europe required specialist pressurized transport, Gas World said.