UK Reopens Major Components of Carbon Dioxide for Food Industry

Britain warned Wednesday that a deal to restart carbon dioxide capture production could cost tens of millions of pounds. The deal was crucial to the food industry but was scrapped due to soaring gas prices.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is used in slaughterhouses to electrocute animals before they are slaughtered for meat. CO2 is also used to make beer and carbonated soda, while frozen CO2 or dry ice keeps food fresh throughout the transport period.

Carbon dioxide is a valuable by-product of fertilizer production.

The UK government on Tuesday (21/9) agreed to pay for the full costs of operating fertilizer giant CF Industries in Teeside, northeast England, for three weeks.

Last week the US company shut down Teeside and another facility in Cheshire, northwest England, citing soaring costs of natural gas for making fertilizers, ultimately reducing the CO2 needed primarily by the food, health and nuclear industries.

The cost of the UK intervention “would be in the millions, maybe tens of millions” of pounds, Environment Minister George Eustice told Sky News on Wednesday (22/9).

George stressed the move was “temporary” as the CO2 market needed to “adapt” to rising gas prices.

“Both CF plants will reopen, to bring back supply (CO2),” Eustice added.

The two CF plants account for about 60 per cent of the UK’s total CO2 supply.

The CO2 shortage has sparked warnings of growing pressure on food supplies, already plagued by a shortage of truck drivers.

The news comes amid a broader supply chain crisis triggered by the coronavirus pandemic and exacerbated by Brexit.

“We don’t expect these two factories to need to close,” Eustice said.

“There are currently a lot of disruptions in global supply chains as the world starts to emerge from the pandemic, exit lockdowns and resume business as usual.”

The government insisted Monday that Britain can avoid a gas supply emergency in the winter, while the price spike also threatens domestic electricity providers and household spending. [mg/ka]

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