Following recent concerns that a potential CO2 crisis is looming in South Africa, it’s emerged that SABMiller Plc, the world's third- largest brewer and South Africa's biggest bottler of soft drinks, faces a shortage of gas for carbonation after an unplanned shutdown at state-run PetroSA's Mossel Bay refinery.

PetroSA shut its gas-to-liquid fuels plant, the biggest of its kind in the world, on 22nd February after a crack in a gas inlet pipe was discovered. Repairs to the refinery, on South Africa's south coast, may take up until 8th March to be completed and production be resumed.

In light of the recent difficulties, Amalgamated Beverage Industries (ABI) in South Africa is likely to be facing “some intermittent product shortages”, according to South African Breweries spokeswoman Janine van Stolk.

ABI, which bottles Coca-Cola Co. beverages, is investigating alternative supplies of carbon dioxide after production of beverages was also disrupted by shortages of the gas in 2006, and last year because of breakdowns at suppliers including PetroSA.

African Oxygen (Afrox) and Air Liquide SA process gas produced at the PetroSA plant and sell it on to customers including ABI, with Afrox recently noting that its supplies of the gas would be cut by 20% because of the PetroSA shutdown. Afrox meets more than half of South Africa's requirements for the gas, while Air Liquide is the second-biggest supplier.

Jonathan Madden, Air Liquide Marketing Director for South Africa, commented, “We are unable to run our CO2 plant as a result of the shutdown, which will adversely affect the current CO2 shortage in the Western and Eastern Cape region.”

The PetroSA refinery's output was cut to half its normal production in June last year after ice damaged a pipeline feeding the plant.