How COVID-19’s quarantine affected the CO2 shortage
We have seen numerous photos of the positive effect that the quarantine had on the environment. From night skies being brighter to waterways becoming clearer. The fact that less vehicles on the road benefited Mother Nature is hard to dispute.
With less people driving comes lower fuel production. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, “COVID-19 mitigation efforts resulted in the lowest U.S. petroleum consumption in decades.” The was a 41% decline from January 1 – March 13, 2020 in motor gasoline and a whopping 62% decline in jet fuel.
So, what does this have to do with the carbon dioxide (CO2) shortage you ask? Less driving and fuel consumption means less ethanol production. Less ethanol production means less CO2. The carbon dioxide that we use to carbonate beverages and produce dry ice is a by-product of ethanol production.
Ethanol is typically made as additive to gasoline from corn, sugar cane and sugar beets. The resulting CO2 from the process is captured and reused. CO2 can be produced and captured from a variety of processes, but the purity of beverage grade CO2 is 99.9% pure. Not all processes result in CO2 capture that has these few impurities.
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While more people are on the road now and fuel consumption is creeping back up, it will take a while before supply catches up with demand. Industry experts expect the shortages to last through at least the end of 2020. This drives up the cost of CO2 and its availability. It also plays a significant part in the availability of dry ice that is made from compressed CO2.