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Impact of CO2 shortage concerns craft brewery owners

A storm might be brewing for a beloved — and for many an essential — industry.

Craft breweries around the region are raising concern about the potential impact the national carbon dioxide shortage could have on their product — and consequently on the price of their pints.

Earlier this month, Todd Energy was forced to shut down its facility in Taranaki due to safety concerns. It had been the only domestic commercial supplier of “food grade” carbon dioxide since the Marsden Point oil refinery closed in March last year.

With no reopening date set, the price of bottled carbon dioxide has skyrocketed as suppliers are forced to source and import the bioproduct from other countries.

Gadooch Brewery owner Chris Ellenden said CO2 was important for his business as it was used at many points in the brewing process as well as for storing beer and in bar taps.

“We use it to carbonise the beer or to basically put the bubbles into the beer.

“If we don’t have it, you have a flat beer.

“We also use it to transfer the beer from the beer tanks to the beer taps, in kegs.”

It was quite a big thing for any brewery as it was used for most things, he said.

“So this is a concern because we don’t know if suppliers will run out of [carbon dioxide].”

He was not too worried as he had guarantees from the brewery’s supplier that they would have enough to keep the business going.

However, he became aware of some popular breweries in the North Island that had to stop production because they could not get supplies.

While his business did not feel a direct impact in the supply chain yet, the prices of the CO2 had more than doubled in recent months, he said.

“They say it may sort of stabilize but I doubt this will happen because the plant we have got in New Zealand is shut at the moment.”

His business produces about 400 liters of beer a week and while he tries to capture and use the brewery’s own CO2, there is not enough for the whole production.

However, he understood many breweries were trying to do that as a way to mitigate the impact.

The Factory Invercargill owner and director Hugo Zaat, for example, said the impact on his business was limited because it relied more on its own carbon dioxide produced during the brewing process than CO2 bought in.

“We try to catch and reuse as much as possible because this is part of our general philosophy.”

He said the issue was more an “inconvenience than a problem” for his business and he did not believe it would affect the prices for the customers as much.

“To be fair, this doesn’t overly concern me at this point and time.

“The amount of gas we go through is so minimal because we utilize so much of our own.”

ILT chief executive Chris Ramsey said the trust had not experienced the direct impact of the CO2 shortage yet.

However, it was keeping an eye on the situation as it could potentially have an impact on the prices of beer in the long term, he said.

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