LATEST

CHARBONNEAU – Too much carbon dioxide here, too little there

Who knew there could be a turkey shortage? (Pixabay.com)

IN A WORD AWASH in too much carbon dioxide, it’s remarkable that some places have too little of the stuff.

Britain recently warned food producers to prepare for a 400-per-cent rise in the price of carbon-dioxide because of a shortage.

Carbon dioxide is important to food producers because it’s used to put the fizz into beer and sodas and stun poultry and pigs before slaughter. Some producers warn that there could be a (gasp) shortage of Christmas turkeys.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson brushed aside worries over a lack of turkeys. His government has been extending emergency support to subsidize the increased cost of CO2 and avert a shortage of poultry and meat.

The shortage of CO2 has been triggered by soaring costs of natural gas.

What has the shortage of natural gas got to do with the shortage of C02?

Well, it turns out that CO2 is a by-product of the European fertilizer industry which uses natural gas as an input. They make it by combining nitrogen in the air with hydrogen from the natural gas to produce ammonia. Ammonia is then used to create fertilizer, and CO2 is left over.

Why is the cost of natural gas soaring?

Natural gas prices have spiked this year as economies reopened from COVID-19 lockdowns. The high demand for liquefied natural gas in Asia pushed down supplies to Europe, sending shock waves through industries reliant on the energy source.

Inventories of natural gas are low because production hasn’t caught up with demand. Uncertainties that occurred during the global pandemic made producers reluctant to invest in new drilling for natural gas.

Canadian natural gas inventories are at five-year lows. Exports from North American LNG facilities are also running at peak volume to meet global demand, draining supplies.

This is bad news for B.C. users of natural gas as prices will increase an average of $8 per month in the Interior starting in October.

This is good news for investors in B.C.’s proposed Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) projects for export to Asia as a cleaner alternative to coal.

But isn’t the use of natural gas to produce fertilizer a dumb idea when natural gas is a valuable source of heating for homes?

Yes, it is a dumb idea because fertilizer can also be made from potash. Potash is abundant in Saskatchewan, one of the largest sources in the world. Potash deposits are left over from a large inland sea that once filled North America.

However, if CO2 isn’t produced as a by-product of making fertilizer, where will  the food industry get CO2 from?

Good question. With all of that CO2 in the atmosphere and a shortage on the ground, there must be a way to take it from the atmosphere.

There is. It’s called carbon capture and it works by passing air laden with CO2 over chemicals. The problem in the past has been that the cost of production of CO2 exceeds the price it can be sold for. But with the price of CO2 soaring, carbon capture could be profitable.

And why should I care about the price of CO2?

Because I use it for making beer.  Good thing I topped up my tank before the price hikes.

David Charbonneau is a retired TRU electronics instructor who hosts a blog at http://www.eyeviewkamloops.wordpress.com.

About Mel Rothenburger (8485 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

3 Comments on CHARBONNEAU – Too much carbon dioxide here, too little there

  1. Richard Carlson // September 30, 2021 at 2:32 PM // Reply

    David, that is a lot of good bird dogging you did for this article. Very interesting. Thanks.

  2. Jennie Stadnichuk // September 30, 2021 at 12:51 PM // Reply

    Wow! what an educational and interesting article! thank you for brightening up my grey and rainy day!

  3. Ian MacKenzie // September 30, 2021 at 7:08 AM // Reply

    Delightful series of cause and effect, David. Just makes one wonder how large a mosaic such connections make in this inter-dependent world of ours. One hell of a big cobweb! And just for a bottle of beer, you say?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: