UK beer production has suffered a terrible blow from the sky-high prices of CO2 and is now threatened to come to a total standstill.
Prices on the planet-warming gas have increased tenfold, due to several reasons, including the transport of COVID-19 vaccines in 2021 that required vast amounts of frozen carbon dioxide, better known as dry ice.
Right now, the entire food and beverage industry is facing a shortage of carbon dioxide, but brewers are hit particularly hard, as CO2 is used in a whole series of steps in the beer making process, from carbonating to packaging.
Warnings have been issued by suppliers about supply chain disruptions that may put beer production on hold just before the crucial holiday season.
Last month, US fertilizer group CF Industries also issued a warning that it would be shutting down its ammonia plant in the UK, responsible for producing about a third of the country’s supply of CO2, in response to soaring natural gas prices.
Another 40% of the UK’s CO2 supply is produced by Ensus, which has also temporarily closed its bioethanol plant in Teesside.
Only three months ago, in June, UK brewers were paying an average of £250 (~$285) per metric ton of CO2. Last week the price peaked at £2,800 (~$3,200) per ton.
The incredible price hike is mainly affecting small and regional brewers, as multinational brewers tend to be equipped with carbon capture systems that allow them to recapture their own emissions.
For local and craft beer makers in the UK, on the other hand, this technology is still far too expensive and they rely on CO2 wholesalers.