Thursday, 21 June 2018

Taking away the sparkle

Anyone with even a passing interest in the drinks’ industry, won’t failed to have noticed the alarmist headlines in the media over the past few days about the shortage of CO2.

The gas, is used not just for the carbonation of fizzy drinks and packaged beer, but also in the packaging of a range of fresh foods, in order to keep them fresh during storage and transit. A rather darker use for the gas, is in pork and poultry slaughterhouses, as apparently it is one of the most humane methods to slaughter animals.

The shortage is due to a number of factors which have combined to create a perfect storm. Northern Europe has already been facing a CO2 supply problem, but now three of the largest UK plants which produce the gas have closed for maintenance, sparking panic among brewers, pub groups and food suppliers.

Much of Europe’s CO2 comes from ammonia plants that manufacture fertiliser; the gas being a by-product of the process. But as demand for fertiliser peaks in winter, manufacturers often shut down during the summer for maintenance work.

Demand for beer and fizzy drinks is peaking as football fans gather to watch the World Cup football, whilst enjoying the recent spell of good weather. People want to watch the football and have a pint, so the shortage could not have occurred at a more worse time. A spokesman for one well-known brewery said. “This effect will be felt right the way across the industry, from micro-brewery to large brewer.”

The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), which represents brewers and 20,000 UK pubs, said the CO2 shortage was beginning to cause stoppages in beer production, although it did not name specific companies.

Not surprisingly, given its support for naturally carbonated beers, CAMRA, has seized on the opportunity to urge drinkers to abandon artificially carbonated brews. Tom Stainer, the Campaign’s chief communications officer said, “Beer drinkers concerned about the supply of beer this summer can rest easy. There are plenty of fantastic real ales, ciders and perries that will be completely unaffected by the impending CO2 shortage."

“Real ales are naturally carbonated by live yeast that is left in the bottle or cask, and are therefore ‘living products’ compared to keg beers, which artificially inject CO2 into the brew for carbonation. In addition, real ciders and perries are naturally still, making them a refreshing beverage choice in the summer heat.”

I must admit that as a person with a scientific background, who works in a science-based role, I was totally ignorant about how the bulk of our stored CO2 is produced. I assumed that breweries collected their own, as a by-product of the fermentation process. I also thought that CO2 was separated from the atmosphere by companies such as BOC and Air Products, who supply oxygen and nitrogen in cylinders, or larger vessels.

As someone who is primarily a Real Ale drinker, the CO2 shortage won’t overly bother me; although I can only begin to imagine the disruption it will cause to the food and drinks industry as a whole.

Watch this space, as they say!


Russtovich said...

Wow. Hadn't heard that on this side of the pond. Not a good thing to be sure.

Mind you, I can't fault CAMRA for using this to advertise real ale. :)

Hopefully the powers that be can find a way to lessen the impact. But then, why would 3 of the largest UK plants go down for maintenance at the same time? (sigh)

I shall indeed keep my fingers crossed for all of you over there.


ETU said...

Your blog really is an education Paul.

And it's free!

If you'd asked me how the gas was produced, then I'd have settled for the atmospheric extraction method too, but then it's "only" 400 ppm, if I remember correctly.

At least the horrifying Distillers issue has gone quiet these days (contaminated carbon dioxide coolant from nuclear plants being recycled into the tanker).

I'm glad that I've never liked fizzy drinks.



Paul Bailey said...

Russ, I can think of worse things. At least cask-conditioned beer will be unaffected. Apparently manufacturers often shut down during the summer for maintenance work, but why the three largest ones should do so at the same time, is either a mystery, or a conspiracy.

It does demonstrate how complex supply chains are; something not understood or, more likely, conveniently ignored by those backing Brexit.

ETU, I was unaware of the recycled "radioactive" CO2 issue. The Distillers Company didn't have a good track record, as I seem to recall they were involved with the scandal surrounding Thalidomide.

ETU said...

Complex indeed, supply chains are Paul, as Airbus are trying vainly to explain.

I understand that you dabble with gardening, as do I. Topiary can be very satisfying. I'm working on a five-metre yew tree, towards a representation of Michael Gove's head, complete with spectacles and beady eyes.

(That'll teach those neighbours, with their paltry privet parrot.)



Paul Bailey said...

ETU, today we have had Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt (unfortunate choice of name, there), castigating business for telling the truth. We also had that joke of a Foreign Secretary, otherwise known as "bonkers Boris," saying "f*ck business," when asked at a diplomatic function, what he thought of Airbus's recent statement.

These are the people who are supposed to be running the country, yet they obviously want to hide bad news about Brexit, until it is too late. I was in London yesterday, marching with over 100,000 other people, to demand a vote on any final deal. People are increasingly realising the disaster facing the country, unless we step back from the brink, and are mobilising to fight this mean-hearted government and its
obsession with a Hard Brexit.

The truth has a habit of coming out; as these poor apologists for government ministers will soon find out.

ps. Good luck with your topiary. Can you fit it with swivel eyes,as well as beady ones?

ETU said...

Well done for attending the march Paul, and I'm glad that you had good weather. It coincided with long-prearranged family stuff, otherwise we would have been there too.

Johnson's remark is highly revealing. The neo-feudalists, the ex-Bullingdon Club boys, have it in for manufacturing, certainly. After all, people with steady long-term employment tend to vote to protect that. There just can't be too much precarity in folks' lives for them. (His foul-mouthed words also logically mean "stuff brewers" too, incidentally.)

I suppose that if they can swing things for their Russian donors then at least someone will be happy. Their press will always blame immigrants for any hardships for them too. I wonder how many will fall for that again?

"The party of business" eh?

Satire is truly dead.



Professor Pie-Tin said...

Kind of indicative of the Remain campaign that they organise a protest march on the one weekend when England is united behind the winning football,cricket,rugby union and rugby league teams.
Then complain about poor publicity.
Two years on from the historic,winning Brexit vote 250,000 new jobs have been created,inward tech investment is leading Europe and Project Fear 2:0 is struggling.
And Labour remain marooned in the sea of tranquility with Jezza backing Brexit and he and every other significant Labour front-bendcher absent from the march which from the brief TV pictures I saw seemed to be comprised largely of white,middle-class English people.
Face it Paul,it's all over for you and wishing the worst for your country in the negotiations just to prove a point is not a good look.

Paul Bailey said...

Afternoon Prof, I wasn’t’ really surprised to find you popping up on this, but your opening point about the two big England games (football and cricket), is totally wrong and almost irrelevant. Both fixtures took place on Sunday (my wife and I sat and watched the England World Cup game yesterday), whereas the March for Peoples’ Vote happened the day before.

Despite your mocking, it was the lead news story on both BBC and ITV, and probably Sky as well; although I stick with Freeview for my TV viewing. The publicity was way in excess of what the organisers dreamt there would be, so apart from sour grapes, I don’t know how you can claim it was poor.

I imagine there would have been some coverage in Ireland too, given the negative impact Brexit will have on the Irish Economy. There were certainly plenty of people from Ireland, present on the march. I’m not sure either, how you can tell from a few TV pictures that the marchers were predominantly middle class. Again a case of making assumptions without being in full possession of all the facts.

I agree with you about Labour, as Comrade Corbyn really is the most useless opposition leader imaginable, but he is backing Brexit because it suits his plan of creating a socialist “utopia”, along the lines of Venezuela. Fortunately many in his party are beginning to see through him, and age isn’t on his side either. Jezza though, is increasingly an irrelevance in this debate and in the future of our country.

Which brings me on to your claim about people in the Remain camp wishing the worst for our great country. This simply isn’t true, people were present on the march because, like me, they care deeply about Britain and are increasingly concerned about the future, post Brexit.

Major investors in the UK economy are also concerned. We’ve already had companies such as Airbus, BMW and Siemens voicing their worries, and I challenge any Brexiter to tell me how these companies are supposed to keep their “just-in-time” assembly lines running, if we are foolish enough to leave the Single Market or the Customs Union.

Those of us fortunate to live in a beautiful county like Kent, are deeply concerned too that our unspoilt countryside will be turned into a gigantic lorry park, if the above scenarios come to pass. We experienced just that, a few years ago, and that was after the actions of just a handful of French fishermen!

I get really angry when Leave campaigners try to claim the moral high ground over patriotism. I love my country, as do the vast majority of those who wish to remain within the EU, and it this concern which is driving us to try and prevent the deeply damaging, Hard Brexit which the UK government are so intent on pursuing.

ETU said...

Prof. The Leave voter's case is often largely based on the claim, that an English car worker in Sunderland has more in common with an English banker, on two hundred times his salary in the City, than he does with a German car worker in Dortmund or with a French one in Lille. Some people find that hilarious, no one more so than the English banker no doubt.

Jeremy Corbyn at least gets that.



Professor Pie-Tin said...

I briefly saw some coverage of the March on the BBC and judging by the people they interviewed white and middle-class seemed to be the order of the day.Perhaps the immigrants were too busy doing their gardening and housekeeping jobs for them to attend.
But I did follow lots of comments on Twitter complaining about how little coverage there was in the media.
Mind you 100,000 isn't anywhere near the 400,000 who protested over the hunting ban and not a patch on the 17.4 million who voted for Brexit in the referendum that promised to carry out the wishes of the majority.
This was the tweet leading Remainer academic Richard Dawkins put out the day after the march.
You're welcome to his company.

" Yes of COURSE there are people who voted Leave for reasons other than xenophobic bigotry or fading imperial jingoism. I’ve met at least four.

But it felt good to be marching through London with the hundred thousand yesterday. And to be reminded of the decent half of Britain. "

Paul Bailey said...

You’ve hit the nail squarely on the head, Professor. “The referendum that promised to carry out the wishes of the majority.”

The trouble is no-one, least of all this shambles of a government, has the faintest clue how to do it!