Nationwide CO2 shortage could force breweries to close

What's worse than a pub with no beer? A country with no beer.

While we're a wee way off that, a nationwide shortage of liquid CO2 - carbon dioxide - could halt beer production for some brewers.

Brewers rely on CO2 for carbonating beer, packaging it and purging fermenters. But with only seven to 10 days of supply left, Garage Project might be forced to halt operations.

"We'll have to shut down production," Garage Project co-founder Jos Ruffell told Newshub.

The cost of CO2 has tripled in the past six months, with breweries big and small struggling through ongoing shortages.

"This is our peak time of the year. It's summer, it's beer-drinking weather and we can't package beer. It's a disaster," Ruffell said.

Since the Marsden Point refinery was decommissioned last year, the only domestic production of food-grade CO2 is at the Kapuni liquid carbon dioxide plant in Taranaki, owned by Todd Energy.

However, the plant has been closed for two weeks while a safety issue is investigated - and the company can't say when it might re-open.

"Craft breweries are struggling, it's going to impact wineries, food producers - anyone who is using CO2 in their process," Ruffell said.

The gas is widely used in food and drink production, hospitals and wastewater treatment.

"CO2 is definitely a vital gas in NZ, and an important part of the gas we need to keep our country running - now and in 50 years' time," Gas New Zealand chief executive Janet Carson said.

BOC, a gas and welding equipment specialist, buys liquid CO2 from Todd Energy in Taranaki and sells it around the country. It said in a statement it is currently prioritising supply to medical, safety and water customers.

While some companies make their own CO2 or import it, many rely on the Kapuni plant, which the Brewers Association said isn't sustainable. They want a better long-term solution.

"While we transition we are reliant on the resources we currently have," Carson said.

And it could end up costing Kiwis.

"Undoubtedly I think there is going to be an impact," Ruffell said.

An impact that could leave brewers and beer drinkers feeling a bit flat.