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CO2 supply is fizzing out

The sudden shutdown of New Zealand’s only carbon dioxide plant has Wairarapa brewers and bar owners scrambling.

Since the Kapuni liquid carbon dioxide [CO2] plant closed shortly before Christmas, hospitality venues across the region have reported stockpiling CO2 gas bottles.

Martinborough Brewery head brewer Eugene Black confirmed he’s beginning to build up his reserves, despite having little storage on site.

“Now that the Taranaki plant has closed, who knows what will happen? I just ordered a bunch more bottles, I don’t really have a whole lot of space, but I’ll find it.

“You can see everyone will start panic ordering.”

With the closure of the Marsden Point plant early in 2022, Todd Energy’s Taranaki site became the only domestic producer of food-grade CO2 in New Zealand.

Black said he envisages a brief period of scrambling and price hikes as supply tightens, and CO2 distributors look at overseas importing.

“It’s going to significantly increase the cost. There have been two price increases over the past year.

“At the moment, we’re absorbing the cost, but depending on what the next price increase looks like, who knows?”

He said nitrogen provides an alternative in some areas of the brewing and dispensing process, but not all.

“You still need to carbonate the beer with carbon dioxide.”

White Swan Country Hotel owner Nick Rogers said his CO2 inventory for beer and fizzy drink dispensing had quadrupled in recent days.

“We are trying to get CO2 gas bottles, but so is everyone else. The scarcity is upsetting things.

“We are bulk buying and stockpiling. I’ve gone from holding two or three bottles to holding eight.”

Brewers Association chair Dylan Firth said CO2 shortages and rationing has plagued the industry since Marsden Point’s oil refinery closure, which provided CO2 as a by-product.

“The only other plant, Kapuni, had a number of scheduled maintenance shutdowns in 2022.

“However, before Christmas, there was a safety-related shutdown.”

He said the result is an increased reliance on expensive and time-delayed CO2 imports for breweries.

Firth said while larger breweries have the means to capture CO2 from the fermentation process, smaller breweries do not, leading to anxiety in the industry.

“We don’t have an expected date for reopening [Kapuni] yet, so there is a real concern as to the supply of CO2 for many breweries.

“Long term, it seems domestic supply is not sustainable at these levels, and we expect that reliance on imported CO2 will continue. This will increase the cost of production overall.”

BOC Gas, which buys CO2 from Todd Energy and sells it across New Zealand, said the outage at Kapuni is affecting supply and rationing is in place.

“BOC is currently prioritising supply of CO2 to critical medical, safety, and water customers.”

BOC said it is collaborating with suppliers to manage the current situation, which includes additional shipments of CO2 from overseas.

Mary Argue
Mary Argue
Mary Argue is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with an interest in justice and the region’s emergency services, regularly covering Masterton District Court, Fire and Emergency and Police.

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