Carbon dioxide (CO2) shortages in the US are by no means a rare occurrence, in fact, we have witnessed shortages happen regularly in the last several years.

This year, however, things are slightly different, with benzine taking centre stage.

A widely used industrial chemical, benzine is a colourless, volatile, flammable, liquid mixture of various hydrocarbons that is obtained in the distillation of petrol.

Outside of industrial uses, benzene can be found in products such as glue, adhesives, cleaners, and paint strippers – all of which can be harmful if handled in the incorrect manner.

This widely used chemical is now making a name for itself in new markets, with some vital CO2 sources, particularly in the Mississippi area, being contaminated with the product.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, benzene quickly evaporates from water or soil. If benzene leaks from buried storage tanks or landfills, it can contaminate nearby drinking water wells[1].

The department further highlights that benzene can move long distances in groundwater.

Whilst everyone’s reaction to the chemical is different, drowsiness, dizziness, headaches and an irregular heartbeat have all been symptoms of those exposed to the substance[2].

It has been highlighted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that if an individual eats food or drinks a beverage with high levels of benzene they can develop symptoms in just minutes. 

As gasworld has heard, the Jackson Dome is where such contamination has been found. Located in the state of Mississippi, the Jackson Dome is owned by independent energy company Denbury, following an acquisition carried out in February 2001.

The Jackson Dome is Denbury’s primary Gulf Coast CO2 source and covers approximately 200 square miles. gasworld believes the contamination occurred when Denbury decided to use its existing CO2 supplies for enhanced oil recovery and drill additional wells to feed its CO2 pipeline that supplies merchant CO2 plants.

With the switch, which is said to have been made for economic reasons, came contaminates. gasworld been told that hydrocarbons, including benzene, are impacting the purity of the CO2 as they are not able to be filtered out with the currently filters.

It is thought that some plants in the region have now had to undergo a sufficient front end-clean-up to cope with the contaminants, but other, older plants are struggling and can therefore not reach or guarantee the International Society of Beverage Technologists’ (ISBT) CO2 purity standards.