Carbon Dioxide Shortage in Europe

With a heat wave rolling and the World Cup underway, many consumers are craving beer, soda and meat. Unfortunately for many individuals living in Europe, a carbon dioxide (CO2) shortage has also led to a shortage, even rationing, of the items they so crave.

Carbon dioxide is used in a range of products, such as dry ice, packaged salad mixes, fizzy drinks and meat production. As a result, United Airlines has suspended their ice cream option for flights coming from Europe due to lack of dry ice and meat producers are electrically stunning their chickens and pigs before slaughtering, since CO2 is unavailable as an anesthetic.

The cause of this shortage? Ammonia fertilizer. This connection may seem random, but pure carbon dioxide is not profitable for a factory to produce so it is instead produced as a byproduct of ammonia fertilizer. However, fertilizer is not usually applied from April to June so many factory plants close for maintenance during those months. This year an unusually high number of plants closed due to an increase in natural gas prices which led to higher production costs with no change to ammonia prices. In the UK, currently there is only one ammonia plant operating normally.

It’s not surprising then, that the UK seems to be suffering the most from the consequences. A major UK wholesaler owned by Tesco, Booker, has implemented a policy that limits customers, such as grocery stores and bars, to 10 cases of beer per brand a day. In other words, they are rationing their supply of beer. Another unfortunate announcement for British beer-lovers came when Heineken announced that kegs may be unavailable for some brands.

This shortage might persist until September although the severity of the situation is lessening since some plants are coming back into production.

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