UK – In a protest over the higher rising costs for natural gas and carbon leading to “uneconomical” market conditions of its business, CF Fertilizers, one of the largest fertilizer producers in the UK, has opted to temporarily shut down operations at one of its largest plants.

The fertilizer company’s main product is ammonia, a key ingredient used in fertilizer, but the manufacturing process also creates a very useful byproduct, carbon dioxide.

Producers like CF Fertilizers sell the resultant CO2 to brewers who use it to carbonate beer and give it its distinctive fizz.

CO2 is also essential in meat processing and in the production of carbonated soft drinks. It is also used in hospitals and as a coolant in nuclear power plants.

CF Fertilizer previously accounted for 60% of the UK’s CO2 supplies until it permanently shut another of its fertilizer plants at Ince in Cheshire earlier this summer, a move that has already heaped pressure on industries that rely on the gas.

A pause in fertilizer production could potentially disrupt the UK’s supply of carbon dioxide and in effect impact, beer production, warns the British Beer & Pub Association, a trade association representing U.K. brewers and pubs.

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the Beer and Pub Association, stated: “A guaranteed supply of CO2 is essential for operations across pub and brewing businesses and this announcement comes at a time when they are already facing extreme rising costs, threatening to close businesses and damage people’s livelihoods.”

The UK experienced a similar crisis in CO2 in September 2021 when high energy prices combined with annual maintenance shutdowns brought UK production to a near halt.

The government was forced to use taxpayer money to fund a three-week bailout for CF Industries to stave off supply chain chaos, before brokering an emergency deal with the company.

The government later, through the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) announced that it had brokered a more lasting agreement to replace a three-week funding package, under which the state propped up the company to keep CO2 supplies flowing.

In addition, BEIS said customers of CF Fertilizers had agreed to pay a set price for the gas until at least January 2022, in a deal the department said reflected the importance of CO2 not just in food and drink but also in areas such as the nuclear industry and hospitals.

Many producers are now calling on the government to take the same measures of procuring from the US, but the government has commented that it is aware of the situation and it is engaging with businesses across the food and drinks industry to understand any potential impacts.

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