Running out of fizz: New Zealand’s CO2 shortage

Running out of fizz: New Zealand's CO2 shortage

New Zealand would face a shortage of carbon dioxide used in food processing. The shortage is due to a reduction in local production capacity, which could impact the availability and prices of sparkling wine, ready meals, meat and soft drinks.

CO2 is used in the manufacture of food products in various ways. It acts as a preservative for foods like meat and chips as it can kill some of the microorganisms; it provides the bubbly to soft drinks and spirits; it is even used in the meat industry to stun animals before slaughter. As the atmosphere warms due to the presence of CO2, it is difficult to extract the relatively small percentage of gas present in the air. Shortages mean that some foods and drinks may not be able to be produced while others will have to be sold to consumers at higher prices.

Last year the UK faced similar shortages. This was caused by a whirlwind of circumstances, but it was mainly due to reduced fertilizer production, which is how the country sourced much of its CO2. Deals have been made to avoid this problem, but dire predictions have been made for Christmas dinners without turkey or other commonly eaten foods.

Food CO2 The shortage in New Zealand is partly due to the closure in March of the Marsden Point oil refinery which produced CO2 as a by-product of its operations. Subsequently, the only household source of liquid, food-grade CO2 is a plant in Todd Energy’s Kapuni gas field in Taranaki.

The reduced amount of CO2 produced in the country has allowed some companies to receive half the usual amount of CO2their existing stocks of chemicals gradually depleting and not being replenished.

One solution that could be considered to solve the problem is a technology that CSIRO has produced and called Airthena, which is capable of extracting carbon dioxide from the air for use in soft drinks, but it may not yet be widely available.

Image credit: Minin

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