Despite various factors affecting carbon dioxide (CO2) availability, the expanding brewing and cannabis sectors are still managing to obtain supplies. As Sam Fatoohi, of telemetry maker Pulsa, was recently quoted when addressing the availability of CO2: “It appears that folks who need it can get it.” But that doesn’t mean it is as straightforward as before.
Firstly, the global thirst for craft beers seems to be unslakable and microbreweries are leading the demand for electric vaporizers and for CO2. Many such breweries are start-ups or small businesses in their first flush of youth, so are limited on space. An electric vaporizer fits their need perfectly and this is where FIBA offshoot FinnCo has been meeting the demand.
As breweries become less micro and more mainstream, they need ever-larger CO2 deliveries. Previously, small-to-medium-sized end users’ needs were satisfied with 3,000 gallon-capacity microbulk trucks for deliveries by gas distribution specialists, but a demand for larger trailers that can hold up to 40,000 pounds of gas has now arisen.
Secondly, in the cannabis-growing business, CO2 is needed for the plants’ cultivation and extraction. CO2-enriched atmospheres encourage faster growth of the cannabis plant, so growers use the gas to create an environment boosted from the usual 400 parts/million of CO2 to around 1600 ppm.
Such is the growth of the cannabis sector and its consumption of CO2 that the CGA recently saw fit to issue safety guidelines and information for the secure use of gases and gas equipment within the industry.
Market experts have cited the boom in cannabis products as the golden opportunity for CO2 businesses.
At the time of writing, cannabis is legal in one form or another (for medical and/or recreational use) in over 30 states, and many other states are said to be positioning themselves to follow suit.
While the US remains the world’s largest cannabis market, north of the border in Canada the growth in demand and availability is strong.
Australia, too, is positioning itself not just as a grower but as an exporter, with a well-respected regulatory framework for production. This is reflected in the fact that key healthcare operators involved in the industry can currently boast market capitalizations of up to around $100m each.
More legal markets mean more cannabis production and more demand on CO2 supplies. And it is not just at the growing stage that CO2 has a role: the processing of the plant, as well as the trimming and freeze-drying stages, also have need for CO2.
One stop shop for cannabis industry gases
Cannagas Supply was founded specifically to service the growing cannabis sector in the US. With an HQ in Massachusetts, a distribution site in Maine and a third site in California, the company is a leading ‘one stop shop’ supplier of gases, consumables and – importantly – consultancy to cannabis businesses.
Joe Finn, co-founder of Cannagas Supply, said, “We established Cannagas Supply five years ago to ensure that businesses in this new but expanding market could get the right supplies but also the right expertise. We offer a consultancy service that advises on the entire production process, including capital investments in equipment, based on what each individual company’s production goals are.”
The company underpinned its position as a key supplier by managing to secure much-needed dry ice supplies at a time when the Covid pandemic saw reserves stretched.
The cannabis oil production process consumes a range of gases, including CO2, nitrogen and various hydrocarbons such as butane and propane. It is important to small and developing businesses that they can source all their gas needs from one supplier – hence the Cannagas Supply business model.
Hydrocarbons for extracting cannabis oil
“While CO2 is used to enhance the growing atmosphere for the cannabis plant, hydrocarbon extraction is the most preferred and efficient way to obtain the oil,” said Joe Finn.
Cannagas Supply already serves dozens of customers in the cannabis sector across the North Eastern US as well as in California, but Joe Finn sees plenty of scope for further growth:
“Our home state of Massachusetts was slower at rolling out legalized cannabis use, so we know there is room for growth close to home, but other states are also proposing to legalize the medical and recreational use of the plant. We are planning on around 10% expansion this year.”
Such is the key role played by CO2 that around the globe governments are legislating to ensure its availability, carbon capture projects are being commissioned to ensure its continued usability, and major distributors are investing to ensure its deliverability.
The gas sector has developed special abilities to flex and change in the never-ending need to meet the demands of new and shifting customer demands. It is incumbent on us at FIBA, as a small cog in the CO2 machine, to flex and change too to play our part in delivering to the new and the not-so-new industries that need CO2 in such quantities.