The British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) has called for Government intervention amid concerns over future CO2 supplies, after CF Fertilisers UK announced its intention to temporarily halt ammonia production at its Billingham Complex.
The plant is a major supplier of CO2, which is produced as a by-product, to the food industry, including abattoirs. The company said the decision was taken due to ‘market conditions’, although it has not yet determined the exact date when it will begin the temporary shutdown of the ammonia plant.
CF intends to use the site’s capability to import ammonia to enable it to continue to run its ammonium nitrate (AN) and nitric acid upgrade plants, and expects to fulfil all its ammonia and nitric acid contracts and all orders of AN contracted for delivery in the coming months.
The company said it has notified customers who purchase carbon dioxide (CO2) on a contract basis from the plant about the impending temporary halt of ammonia production. Once the ammonia plant is safely shut down, CO2 production, which is a byproduct of the ammonia production process, will stop until the plant is restarted, it confirmed.
BMPA chief executive Nick Allen said the organisation knew back in June that the closure of CF Industries’ Cheshire plant would leave UK CO2 supplies vulnerable to anything going wrong with their remaining Billingham plant and heavily reliant on overseas suppliers to make up the shortfall.
Since then, ammonia producers in Italy and Germany have cut production which sent European food and drink companies scrambling to secure tightening supplies of the gas at the end of July, he said.
“Whilst we are in a much better position now than we were a year ago, if CF Industries follows through on its threat to close Billingham the British meat industry will have serious concerns. Without sufficient CO2 supplies the UK will potentially face an animal welfare issue with a mounting number of pigs and poultry unable to be sent for processing,” Mr Allen said.
“It’s for this reason that securing Co2 supplies is of key strategic importance and, following this latest development, we can’t see how Government can sit on the side lines and insist that it’s for companies to work it out amongst themselves. They are going to need to step in.”