06 November 2023

Contact offers solution to New Zealand’s CO2 shortage

Contact Energy (Contact) could help solve one of the biggest problems New Zealand is facing this summer – a beer shortage!


Recent closures of traditional carbon dioxide (CO2) sources in multiple markets have caused a world-wide shortage of food grade CO2, the essential ingredient to keep the bubbles in everything from lager to lemonade.


This came on the back of the 2022 closure of the Marsden Point oil refinery, which supplied the majority of New Zealand’s food grade CO2. New Zealand is now having to import food grade CO2, which is costly and in short supply.


But thanks to some innovative thinking from the team at Contact's Ohaaki geothermal site near Taupō, the energy gentailer has developed a way of capturing the small amount of naturally occurring carbon dioxide released during the geothermal power generation process and converting it to food grade quality. 


Contact’s CEO Mike Fuge says if plans to convert are successful, it could be a real winner.  But Contact needs help.  

This week Contact will issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) inviting potential partners to assist with capturing, cleaning and converting the carbon dioxide emitted from Ohaaki power station to food grade quality so it’s safe to use in food and beverages.


“This is a really exciting opportunity,” says Mike Fuge. “We have done a massive amount of testing, and the results are very positive.


“Not only will this initiative help reduce carbon emissions including those from burning fossil fuels to ship CO2 to New Zealand, but it could also create around 40 jobs in the Taupō area and help solve New Zealand’s food grade CO2 shortage by creating a homegrown source that will increase supply and lessen cost. This is a great outcome for NZ Inc as it will improve the country’s resilience and independence.”


Geothermal operations produce relatively low levels of climate change gases, so the initiative would repurpose this small amount of non-environmentally friendly gas. Geothermal is one of the greenest and most sustainable forms of CO2, so this development would play a key part in New Zealand’s decarbonisation drive.


“Food grade CO2 is just the beginning,” adds Mike. “Purified CO2 could be used along with green hydrogen to create sustainable fuels for aviation, shipping and other transportation.”

As well as carbonating drinks, food grade CO2 is used in packaging to preserve the freshness of food, as well as keeping medical supplies cool during transportation and in biofuel production.


Contact estimates about 65,000 tonnes of CO2 could be captured at its Ohaaki geothermal site every year, which is enough to fully supply the New Zealand market.


The deadline for Ohaaki Food Grade CO2  production RFP submissions is 5pm on Wednesday 6 December.




Media enquiries

Lotty Hird

Senior Communications Advisor

M: 027 207 8684

E: lotty.hird@contactenergy.co.nz


About Contact

Contact Energy is one of New Zealand’s largest energy retailer and generators. We have more than 580,000 connections with electricity, gas, broadband and mobile. Our vision is to build a better Aotearoa New Zealand by leading New Zealand’s decarbonisation journey. We believe home is the most important place in the world.  It’s all part of our long-term vision to create and contribute to a better New Zealand; from the homes and communities we live in, to the land and resources that future generations can enjoy. 


Website: contactenergy.co.nz

More information can be found in Contact’s 2023 Integrated Report