CO2 shortage sparks fears over summer beer supplies

Supplies of gas run dry in Europe as plants close for maintenance

Beer and fizzy drinks are in danger of falling flat after fears of a shortage of carbon dioxide production in Europe surfaced at the weekend.

Concerns about CO2 are usually more about there being too much of the gas. But a shortage among some of the biggest suppliers in north-western Europe has emerged, potentially endangering a much-needed boost to beer sales during the World Cup football tournament.

Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, representing large brewers said on Tuesday that “given the time of year and the World Cup, this situation has arisen at an unfortunate time for the brewing industry”.

She added: “We are aware of a situation affecting the availability of CO2 across Europe, which has now started to impact beer producers in the UK.”


One soft drinks manufacturer said the shortage was not affecting production yet but that “it is an issue”.

Gavin Partington, director-general at the British Soft Drinks Association, said the CO2 shortage "across northern Europe is impacting a wide range of businesses across the food and drink sector".

“Soft drinks producers in the UK are taking active steps to maintain their service to customers, including working with their suppliers to mitigate the impact as well as looking at alternative sources.”

One of the largest sources of food-grade CO2 in Europe has traditionally been ammonia plants. The shortage is the result of at least five gas producers across northern Europe shutting down for maintenance during the early summer months. Major suppliers of liquid CO2, including Praxair, Messer, Air Liquide and Linde had all been affected by the issue, according to Gasworld which first reported the issue. It said the UK was the hardest hit with only one major CO2 plant operating.

“The European ammonia market is tighter than normal at this time of year. There seem to be more plants shut down than usual although we haven’t seen a major uptick in imports,” said Richard Ewing, ammonia markets editor at ICIS, the market data firm.

A spokeswoman for Messer in Germany said: “As every year in summer, some of the European ammonia plants are not or partly in operation. It is a situation that happens every year in the summer months. Messer tries to secure the customer supply by shifting product within Europe.”

The British Compressed Gases Association which represents the interests of the UK industrial gases sector, said it was "aware" of the shortage of CO2, which is "affecting a range of application areas".

Linde and Air Liquide declined to comment. Praxair in the UK was unavailable for comment.– Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2018