The Independent Welding Distributors Cooperative (IWDC) has warned its members in the US that carbon dioxide (CO2) supply could be impacted by the escalating coronavirus (Covid-19).

The IWDC sent out a communication advising that atmospheric gases are adequate, but CO2 requires attention.

In the communication about reliability of the gas supply chain, Richard Mansmann, Vice-President Gas Programs at the IWDC, advises there is no expected interruption in the production of oxygen, which will see increased demand from hospitals as they battle Covid-19.

Mansmann said, “I’ve been in regular contact with Air Products, and I believe their position is consistent with the other industrial gas producers. As the production of oxygen and nitrogen are essential services, there is no current anticipation of a supply interruption of oxygen, nitrogen and argon. However, I strongly encourage that you stay in contact with your local terminal’s distribution staff as there may always be a possibility of driver illnesses. Please advise your supplier of any known operational changes at your facilities and your customers so that critical customers are taken care of without delay.

“Finally, if you do your own bulk transportation, consider advising your supplier that you can make certain bulk deliveries for them should the need arise. Even if you can only support nitrogen, consider that impact, allowing the supplier to satisfy the medical oxygen demand.”

But Mansmann says he is concerned about future CO2 supply in the US as gasoline and diesel slows.

“While the atmospheric gas supply seems adequate, please monitor your carbon dioxide supply carefully, especially those of you with significant activity in dry-ice production and sales,” Mansmann said.

“As we’ve discussed at several of our meetings, the CO2 is a byproduct, and is subject to interruption for many reasons beyond the suppliers’ control. Keep in mind that many of the primary CO2 generators may be forced to reduce capacity significantly. Gasoline and diesel fuel demand has obviously slowed, this may result in less CO2 produced and purified at the refinery level. Likewise, as we enter spring, natural gas demand falls, and with it, the activity of primary and mid-stream strippers who extract the CO2 to raise the heating content of the pipeline natural gas.

“Most importantly for most of the IWDC family, our primary independent CO2 suppliers rely on ethanol production as their CO2 source, and with lower gasoline demand, ethanol demand will fall proportionally. Reduced demand for ethanol will lead to reductions in CO2 production by the ethanol manufacturers. I’ll leave it to you all in the agricultural areas to gauge spring and summer plantings to estimate ammonia-based fertiliser production. My guess now is that ammonia-based CO2 sources will weather this crisis, but I’d suggest that all other CO2 production may fall as much as 20-25%. Watch the gasoline production numbers weekly, they will correlate directly to about 65% of the total CO2 supply.”