Fresh Fears Over Shortage of Carbon Dioxide
You might have seen in the news recently that there’s a shortage of carbon dioxide (CO2).
High grade carbon dioxide (CO2) is used in many industries for a wide range of manufacturing processes. This includes food and beverage production, where it’s used for keeping products fresh and extending their shelf life. It’s also frequently used for bottling and putting the bubbles into carbonated soft drinks, beer, and cider.
There was a similar shortage of CO2 in the UK a few years ago. We wrote a blog article about the CO2 shortage impacting food and drink supplies in 2018. However, this shortage was due to slightly different reasons, including the closure of a number of ammonia and bioethanol manufacturing plants throughout Europe for planned maintenance, along with disruption from technical breakdowns across some sites. When it came to disrupting the CO2 supply, there was something of a ‘perfect storm’.
However, fast-forward a few years later – fresh fears have emerged over another CO2 shortage. So, why is the shortage happening this time around?
Why is the CO2 Shortage Happening in 2022?
One of the main reasons for the shortage is due to one of the UK’s largest suppliers of CO2 pausing its operations.
CO2 is created as a by-product of ammonia production, which is used in fertilizers.
Citing surging energy costs, one of the main suppliers decided to temporarily halt ammonia production at its plant in Northeast England. With no ammonia production, there was no CO2 by-product.
The producer supplies approximately 42% of the UK’s CO2, which is a significant percentage.
Due to the current high natural gas and carbon prices, the UK’s producer stated that ammonia production had become uneconomic, with marginal costs above £2,000 per tonne and global ammonia prices at about half that level.
The factory is vital to the UK’s CO2 supply, so the pausing of operations has major implications for food and beverage processing, from beer to food.
Europe Also Feeling the Impact
And it’s not only the UK feeling the impact. Fertilizer production is being reduced throughout Europe due to high gas prices, which in turn, is having an impact on the availability of CO2.
Producers throughout Europe have already reduced their output by more than a quarter, according to data from independent market analysts CRU. And things don’t look like improving any time soon, with announced plans to cut ammonia production even further.
At the end of August, an Oslo based producer announced that they were implementing further cutbacks that will take its total European ammonia capacity utilisation to around 35%.
As a result, many manufacturers dependent on CO2 have been forced to scale back their production.
For example, a major, well-known brewer in Poland said at the end of August it could soon cut back or even halt beer production unless normal CO2 supplies resume.
In addition, a leading mineral water company in Italy has been forced to reduce their production due to the CO2 shortage.
The shortage couldn’t come at a worse time, with manufacturers already dealing with significant challenges such as supply chain issues, increasing costs, fierce competition, labour shortages and much more.
How HPS Technology Can Help
In 2018, HPS received a lot of enquiries from companies that process liquids, asking us how we can help reduce their use of CO2. And we expect to receive more enquiries in the remainder of 2022, well in to 2023 and beyond (unless things change).
One of the ways manufacturers often use CO2 in liquid processing is for purging the lines to remove any oxygen, before they transfer the product from storage to the filler.
That’s because certain products, including some beverages, cannot come into contact with air, or the oxygen in the air, as it would damage or degrade the product. For example, increasing the dissolved oxygen content in wine.
However, there’s a solution. We call it the Double-Pig Pigging System. The double-pig system reduces the use of CO2, so can help lessen the impact of the shortage.
What are Double-Pig Pigging Systems?
Here’s a double pig pigging system demonstration showing how it works. Put simply, double-pig pigging systems use two separate pigs. Before product is transferred through the line, a pig is sent to the outlet, which pushes out all the oxygen from the line. Product is then transferred into the line behind the pig.
The product pushes the pig to its destination where the pig enters its housing. During the sequence, the pig acts as an interface between the product and oxygen and so prevents oxygen from coming into contact with the product. Once the transfer is complete the line is cleared by a second pig as if it were a single-pig pigging system.
Double-pig systems are used with a wide range of products, including soaps, shampoo, foam gel products, beer, and wine.
Importantly, because the pig prevents oxygen or air from coming into contact with the product, pigging prevents the need to charge the lines with CO2.
Additional Benefits of Pigging
As well as eliminating the need to purge lines with CO2, pigging systems offer a wide range of additional benefits to companies that process liquids.
The benefits include higher product yields, increased capacity, less waste, reduced contamination and cross-contamination risks, faster changeovers using less resources, improved efficiency, lower water consumption plus much more.
And because HPS pigging systems save so much waste, water, cleaning chemicals, resources, and related transport and disposal costs, they have a positive impact on the environment.
Significant Return on Investment (ROI)
Pigging systems also pay back the initial cost of the system extremely quickly. In many cases, in just a few months. In this way, pigging system return on investment (ROI) is significant.
Faster changeover times and quick processing, less water and cleaning chemical usage along with waste reduction and maximised product yields are some of the key reasons pigging systems deliver an extremely attractive ROI.
That’s why pigging systems make financial and operational sense as well as helping companies that process liquids meet their sustainability and environmental goals.
Find Out More
If you work for a company that processes food, beverages or other liquids and you’re currently purging your lines with CO2 and are looking to reduce the amount of CO2 you use, please contact the experts today. Alternatively, if you’re looking at preventing foaming in your lines, please get in touch with HPS – the world’s leading specialists in sanitary and hygienic pigging systems.