As brewers halt production of some beer brands and frozen food deliveries reduce, cooling industry has to deal with supply restrictions - but suppliers stress it is not a crisis
As the UK gets increasingly hot and bothered about shortages of carbon dioxide affecting its beer and soft drink supplies, the cooling industry is seeing its stocks of CO2 refrigerant placed under tighter controls. But, the message from the supply chain is ’If contractors order what they need for current projects, and don’t panic-buy lots of additional stock, the cooling industry can ride out the crisis.’
In the space of a few days, excitable national press headlines about a crisis appears to have created a self-fulfilling prophecy and although limited production of CO2 has continued, the UK has quickly found itself in short supply of many forms of the gas. As a result, while refrigerant suppliers last week were reasonably confident that they had sufficient stocks to ride out the expected two or three weeks of short supply - as a result of factory shutdowns which occur every year in summer - this week, stocks at the carbon dioxide factories have become very tight.
Part of the problem is that the demand from other industries has been so high - as panicked customers in sectors from poultry production to breweries to frozen food have bombarded production facilities with orders - that refrigerant distributors have found themselves placed under additional ordering restrictions. Thanks to summer shutdowns, there is reported to be only one supplier of CO2 in the UK currently in full production.
As a result, while many CO2 refrigerant suppliers have enough stock for existing orders, there is little excess capacity, so the message is ’Don’t buy additional stock in excess of what you need for current jobs’. It also means that ad hoc customers, or those whose own supply chains have let them down are finding it increasingly hard to source the refrigerant.
To add further uncertainty, the government has suggested that if the crisis deepens, it will act to requisition ’essential’ CO2, such as medical gases. This could reduce the stock available to refrigerant customers. However, cooling suppliers are hopeful that they can argue that refrigerant is an essential use.