Australian CO2 shortage limits fizzy drinks supply

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 9th January 2012

Australia is presently suffering a severe shortage of CO2 required for soft drinks to bubble.

Ironically, the Australian Federal government recently passing a law to impose a carbon tax (still to come into effect) and this law aims to discourage production of carbon dioxide (CO2).

In actual fact, the current shortage is  a consequence of necessary State government protective measures responding to non-comformances with environmental safety laws  by an upstream supplier to the CO2 plant.The temporary closure of two key sources of carbon dioxide gas, including Orica’s controversial explosives plant at Kooragang Island near Newcastle, is causing a supply shortage of CO2 for drink-makers.

Reports over the recent summer holiday break across south-eastern Australia indicate there were shortages of soft drink to meet demand. The situation will further worsen if carbon dioxide production does not shortly return to normal.

Orica’s Kooragang Island explosives plant, which produces ammonia, makes carbon dioxide as a by-product. In turn, CO2 is supplied by gas supplier BOC (owned by the German-based Linde Group) which produces carbon dioxide at Kooragang Island. The CO2 production facility remains out of action until the Orica explosives plant resumes feeding the raw gas for processing.

The Kooragang Island plant has been closed since August 2011 following an accident. The NSW government has said that Orica has breached numerous environmental safety laws in several serious incidents over the past year. The government says it has lost confidence in Orica’s environmental safety compliance systems, and is threatening to prevent the re-opening of the Kooragang Island facility.

BOC meanwhile says it is sourcing alternative supplies from Queensland and Victoria to maintain supply in New South Wales.

“BOC is currently maintaining normal CO2 supply in other Australian states,” the company said in a statement.

Another major source of CO2, Origin and AWE’s Lang Lang processing plant in Victoria,has been closed for upgrades for about several months.

The CO2 disruptions have already impacted Australia’s major soft-drink brands such as Schweppes, which also bottles Sunkist and Pepsi, while Coca Cola Amatil has publicly indicated it has had to alter its production planning.

The soft-drink industry is worth $3.2 billion annually to the Australian economy.