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The UK Is Rationing Beer Because of a CO2 Shortage

Grabbing a pint in London is a bit trickier these days as a carbon dioxide shortage has forced a major UK wholesaler to limit the amount of beer it sells to customers.

Booker, a division of Tesco, is limiting customers to 10 cases of beer per day and just five cases of cider or soft drinks. The move comes a week after Heineken warned that kegs of some beers, including Amstel, might not be available in Britain.

CO2 is used to carbonate beer and is a part of the bottling/kegging process.

The rationing comes at the worst possible time for brewers and distributors. Beyond the hot summer months, a boom time for beer makers, the shortage occurs as the World Cup reaches its climax, when bars and pubs are likely to be packed.

It’s not likely to end soon, either. The UK food and beverage industry’s best hope is the CO2 shortage ends some time in early July. But communication from CO2 suppliers has been infrequent, at best.

The shortage is due to planned shutdowns of major ammonia plants along with maintenance shutdowns of several bio-ethanol plants throughout Europe, which also supply CO2. At present, northern Europe only has five CO2 producers and only one is currently operating in the UK.

Beyond beer, the CO2 shortage is also impacting the region’s meat industry, as the gas is used to stun animals before they are slaughtered. It also extends the shelf life of food items like meat and packaged salads.