The UK’s remaining ammonia plant, CF Fertilisers UK, which creates CO2 as by-product, is set to temporarily halt production due to surging energy costs. This move is the latest instalment in an increasingly regular and disruptive series of CO2 gas supply crises that have plagued the food sector over the past four years.
The plant in Billingham, Teesside, accounts for nearly a third of the UK’s supplies of the gas, which is essential to meat processors, brewers, bakers, farmers and soft drink producers, as well as being required for the slaughter of animals, including pigs and chickens.
CF Fertilisers said it had “not yet determined” the exact date when it would begin the temporary shutdown of the plant., or how long it will last.
Rupert Ashby, CEO of the British Frozen Food Federation, says the situation has heaped yet more pressure on suppliers already facing “crippling” energy costs.
“This is not the first time the UK has had issues with CO2 supplies in recent years, so this is another wake-up call for the need of a longer-term solution for CO2 production in the UK, so we can avoid challenges like this in the future,” he says.
Defra said it was “disappointing” CF had decided to halt ammonia production at Billingham. “However, since last autumn the CO2 market’s resilience has improved, with additional imports, further production from existing sources such as anaerobic digestion and bioethanol, and better stockpiles,” suggested a spokeswoman.
As the government engaged with businesses over potential impacts and continued to examine options “for the market to improve resilience over the longer term”, she urged industry “to do anything it can to meet demand, which is in the best interest of businesses and the public”.