A potential carbon dioxide crisis is looming in South Africa, as power cuts provoke supply shortages and take the fizz out of the beverage industry in the country.

Eskom’s power cuts are contributing to a shortage of carbon dioxide and global drinks manufacturer Coca-Cola indicated recently that the shortage was affecting supplies of its products in the Western Cape and Port Elizabeth area.

Air Liquide is one of the major suppliers of CO2 and affirmed that a countrywide shortage of the gas had forced it to ration supplies to customers in the beverage industry and beyond. Air Liquide Marketing Director Jonathan Madden commented, “The situation has been vulnerable since the end of 2006. Power outages disrupt the stable operating conditions necessary for carbon dioxide recovery and purification.”

Madden noted that Air Liquide was importing carbon dioxide as a short- term relief measure and had so far been able to maintain its steady supply.

“At this stage we have been able to maintain adequate stock of oxygen and medical gases. Our plants for production of these gases are stand-alone and do not rely on third-party operations, other than for the power supply,” he said.

The biggest supplier of CO2 in South Africa, Afrox, declined to comment on the shortage on the grounds that its financial results were due out shortly.

In the coming months gas world will be addressing the issues of supply in the African continent, as it stages its African Conference 2008 with the theme of Meeting the Challenges of Supply. The conference will take place on 9th - 11th June 2008.