In June 2018, the UK faced a shortage of liquefied CO2. As a result, corporations like Coca-Cola decided to close production lines temporarily. In fact, many businesses need a supply of liquid CO2 to operate. A few examples are the drink and food industries, but also pharmaceuticals. Peak demand occurs in June when the demand for fizzy drinks takes off and when plants that produce ammonia close for maintenance. The reason for this is that CO2 is industrially obtained as a by-product of the ammonia production, so both productions are linked to each other but the demand for these products doesn’t always correspond.
Another reason for this occasional shortage is that CO2 is a cheap gas that takes up quite a lot of space, making it difficult to transport over long distances. This is not to mention the CO2 emissions associated with transporting CO2. Granted, the CO2 the UK needed was not the dirty kind that comes out from car’s exhaust pipes but “a clean and pure” CO2. Some recovery technologies exist, and the Canadian company Carbon Engineering has already developed a prototype that captures and purifies roughly 1 ton of CO₂ per day. However, this solution has not been commercially explored and there are many doubts regarding its profitability. This is due to the difficulty of capturing CO2 molecules that represent less than 0.05% of the atmosphere and the challenge associated with transforming raw CO2 into a usable commodity.
0.05% might seem to be an insignificant proportion of our air but small variations are enough to create massive climate disruptions. It is estimated that the average temperature of the Earth’s surface would be -18°C without CO2 in the atmosphere.
Nathan Breen, Climate Analysis Team – Sources: Beyond Ratings, The Guardian