THE Government has brokered a deal with a major carbon dioxide (CO2) producer to ensure supplies continue to be available – but the firm's Ince plant will remain shut.

The rising price of gas forced a major CO2 producer, CF Fertilisers, to shut down its two UK plants in Billingham and Ince last month, choking off supplies that are used across numerous industries including stunning animals for slaughter, extending the shelf life of food, aiding in surgical operations and cooling nuclear power plants.

Carbon dioxide is a by-product of fertiliser manufacture and the US firm supplies around 60 per cent of the UK’s needs.

The Government stepped in for a three-week period to prop up the firm in a move that was expected to cost “possibly tens of millions” of pounds, according to Environment Secretary George Eustice.

It resulted in CO2 production being restarted at the Billingham plant near Middlesbrough, but the 400 workers at the Ince plant on the outskirts of Ellesmere Port were left in limbo as the plant remained closed.

Now the Business Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, said a “more sustainable solution” had been found.

The deal means that until January 2022, those who buy CO2 from CF Fertilisers will pay a set price, which will allow the company to continue operating while global gas prices remain high.

But while that will mean the Billingham plant will be able to produce up to 750 tonnes of CO2 a day for commercial use, the CF Industries plant in Ince will remain offline.

The company said it did not have an estimate for when production will resume at the facility.

Mr Kwarteng said of the Government deal: “Today’s agreement means that critical industries can have confidence in their supplies of CO2 over the coming months without further taxpayer support.

“The Government acted quickly to provide CF Fertilisers with the support it needed to kick-start production, and give us enough breathing space to agree a longer-term, more sustainable solution.

“I would like to thank all the parties involved in this agreement who have recognised the importance of avoiding supply disruptions and delivering for UK businesses and consumers.”

Last week, Mr Kwarteng temporarily exempted parts of the CO2 industry from competition law to facilitate the agreement and provide further security of CO2 supplies to UK businesses.

Previously, Mr Eustice had warned that companies would have to accept a large rise in CO2 rates, with a possible fivefold increase from £200 a tonne to £1,000.

Tony Will, president and CEO of CF Industries, said: “We are pleased to have reached a commercial solution that enables the Billingham Complex to continue to operate through January, alleviating near-term CO2 supply concerns in the UK."