The market for dry ice


Dry ice is unique, often thought of as a portable refrigerant and of course, physically unique in that it sublimates from a solid to a gas, while providing refrigeration value. The further by-product value, when applying dry ice in food processing applications, is a form of gaseous bactericide.

Of course, such a commodity requires constant ventilation, as it sublimates in the place of application or storage, which otherwise if applied improperly, can result in harm. Beyond the need for proper ventilation, it is dry ice’s primary value – the very cold nature of the commodity – which can cause injury if there is direct contact with human skin and other living organisms. Over the years, the application of dry ice has morphed from certain industrial uses, such as food preservation/shipping applications to name a few, into a major form of temperature reduction in major food processing plants. Many plants have started with dry ice in service of food processing, then graduated to liquid carbon dioxide (CO2), and sometimes reverted back to dry ice again. This change in the form of CO2 usage, particularly in food processing environments, is driven by the demand onsite to do the job, compared with the capital or rental cost of a liquid system which could otherwise generate snow (or pellets).

Often the demand changes radically from place to place in a plant, as well as the actual tonnage required; all leading to using dry ice shipped into the plant or generating a form of dry ice onsite. Dry ice has always been an important sector of the carbon dioxide industry and has been a major focus of companies as Airgas (Carbonic) in the US. Over the years, as mergers and acquisitions occur, beyond those companies such as Airgas seeking additional dry ice interests, the majors in the industry have generally maintained predominantly liquid in their portfolio, while dry ice specialists tend to specialise in dry ice; where the majors sell liquid to dry ice operations downstream, often adjacent to the liquid plant.

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