Why Northern California businesses aren’t enthusiastic about the CO2 shortage

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Despite an excessive amount of carbon dioxide, or CO2, in the climate-modifying atmosphere of Earth, in North Bay and across the country, the same gas is lacking, creating problems for breweries, establishments. wineries, entrepreneurs and the health care industry.

“Right now you read or hear about CO2 almost always in a negative context, but it’s necessary for many applications,” said Rich Gottwald, CEO of the Compressed Gas Association.

Dry ice is the frozen form of CO2, and wineries use it during harvest. Distributed over the grapes, the heavier gases displace the oxygen to prevent the produce from spoiling.

“For this year’s crop, we had 30% less (CO2) to sell,” said Glen Irving, sales manager at Complete Welders Supply in Napa.

The company manufactures dry ice at its Napa, Rohnert Park and Stockton sites and supplies North Bay wineries, microbreweries, metal makers, laboratories, universities and an Army base. air.

“The last three months have been very tight, but we’ve pretty much come out of the worst. There are all kinds of issues that affect the supply of CO2. Regionally, one of those issues is the use of CO2 during the grape harvest season by wineries, ”Mike Guilford, head brewer and production manager at HenHouse Brewing Co., told the Business Journal. in Santa Rosa.

Breweries feel exhausted

In the grand scheme of things, the nearly 9,000 brewers in the United States use a fraction of the CO2 consumed in business. Nonetheless, without this gas one would have to drink still beer, making it an essential ingredient in every can, bottle and keg.

“The beverage industry is a fairly low user of CO2 and the breweries are quite small. Small brewers are at the end of the supply chain, ”said Chuck Skypeck, manager of technical brewing projects at the Brewers Association. “It is expensive to move. He must stay cold. The best way to travel is by train.

The representative of the trade association noted that most breweries are not adjacent to the railroad tracks, which requires delivery by tanker truck, which increases the cost.

Brendan Moylan faces soaring CO2 prices for his breweries – Marin Brewing Co. in Larkspur and Moylan’s Brewing Co. in Novato. He has been operating them for 33 and 26 years, respectively.

“Something as simple as a gas cylinder was costing $ 2 or $ 3 a month to rent. Now they charge $ 20 per month for rental. These are not pennies and pennies; it’s dollars and dollars, ”Moylan said. “We have been profitable in breweries for several years. They haven’t been in the last couple of years for a number of reasons and CO2 is one of them. “

Small portable CO2 cylinders are exchanged between the customer and the gas distributor. They are often used when breweries travel to festivals and other offsite venues. Moylan said his refillable containers at breweries can hold hundreds of pounds of gas and it costs $ 1,000 to fill one.

“We have been hit by the CO2 shortage – short term over the past two weeks, as well as last year and every time in between,” said Peter Kruger, COO of Bear Republic Brewing Co. in Cloverdale. Journal in early November.

At HenHouse, which has its production plant in Santa Rosa and a tasting room there and in Petaluma, the cost of CO2 has increased by 60% this year.

Carbon dioxide recovery

Breweries not only consume CO2, but also produce it during production.

Guilford, who manages the production of the Sonoma County brewery, is taking a proactive approach to the carbon dioxide problem because he does not predict that the supply chain will return to pre-pandemic levels, nor that prices will drop. .

“We recently bought a CO2 recovery system. It will be installed by the end of the year and will allow us to capture part of the CO2 that comes out of our fermentations, ”explained Guilford. “It used to be a technology that only very large breweries could have. But Earthly Labs in Austin, TX produced a perfect unit for our sizable brewery. Basically, during fermentation, the yeast eats sugar and creates roughly equal amounts of alcohol and CO2. Currently, most of this CO2 is simply released into the atmosphere. What we will be able to do is capture that CO2, turn it back into liquid, and store it until we need to use it.

This means that HenHouse will not have to buy as much CO2, it will use a cleaner product because it will not come from a refinery, and the company will reduce its carbon footprint.

Guilford did not put a price on the clawback system, but said it should pay off in about three years.

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