CO2 is the main by-product of ammonia production and is also an essential component in both food and drink manufacture.
A reduction in supply could have a profound impact on UK industry, as seen last year when CO2 supply concerns sparked fears over food and drink shortages.
Some companies revealed that they were reduced to just ten to 15 days of CO2 supply, according to reports released in September 2021.
With the gas used heavily in the meat industry for slaughter of pigs and poultry, Nick Allen, CEO, British Meat Processors Association (BMPA), told gasworld that a closure would raise ‘serious concerns’ and could potentially lead to an animal welfare crisis in the UK.
“We knew back in June that the closure of CF Industries’ Cheshire plant would leave CO2 supplies vulnerable to anything going wrong with their remaining Billingham plant and that we would be heavily reliant on overseas suppliers to make up the shortfall,” he said.
Since then, ammonia producers in Italy and Germany have cut production which sent European food and drink companies scrambling to secure tightening supplies of the gas at the end of July.
”Securing CO2 supplies is of key strategic importance…”
Although the UK is in a much better position now than one year ago, Allen believes that if CF Industries follows through on its threat to close Billingham, the British meat industry will have ‘serious concerns.’
“Without sufficient CO2 supplies the UK will potentially face an animal welfare issue with a mounting number of pigs and poultry unable to be sent for processing.”
“It’s for this reason that securing CO2 supplies is of key strategic importance and, following this latest development, we can’t see how Government can sit on the side lines and insist that it’s for companies to work it out amongst themselves. They are going to need to step in,” he added.
With CO2 also used to inject the familiar fizz in carbonated soft drinks and beer, a tightening in supply could have a direct impact on supermarkets, breweries, and pubs.
Considered the voice of the UK food and drink industry, the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) is continuing to monitor the situation.
“We are aware that CF Industries has announced it intends to temporarily halt ammonia production at the Billingham site, which will mean production of CO2 will stop,” commented Kate Halliwell, Chief Scientific Officer, FDF.
“We are monitoring the situation closely and will be working with companies to understand the impact this will have on food and drink supply.”