Beverage Gases

Gases in the beverage and hospitality industries

The use of gases for beer and other drinks is widespread in the UK. Carbon dioxide (CO2) and CO2 / Nitrogen (N2) mixture gases, along with their associated equipment, are routinely used within beverage dispense.

Typical uses for beverage gases include:
  • CO2 for soft drinks and lagers.
  • Various gas mixtures for premium lagers, ciders, stouts and smoothflow bitters.

The gases do more than merely impart ‘fizz' and propulsion from the keg. They are significant contributors to taste and mouth-feel and hence to customer satisfaction and loyalty. CO2 works to keep keg contents sterile and getting the gas mixture and pressure correct maintains the equilibrium in the keg and ensures the most efficient use of the dispense system.

Beverage gases are classified as food and are covered by the Food Safety Regulations, therefore all beverage gases have to be supplied in approved gas containers, be filled with gas manufactured to a food specification, and the cylinders have to have appropriate labelling, including batch labels for traceability.

Guidance on Food Regulations is available in BCGA GN 14.

Safety of dispense gases

Many BCGA members offer beverage gases and provide a wide range of supporting services and equipment to the drinks dispense market. All BCGA members are recognised as legitimate suppliers and, along with several other reputable suppliers, follow the required legislation and conform to current best practice guidelines, such as BCGA CP 32 for filling beverage gas cylinders. However, there are over 100 beverage gas fillers in the UK, some of whom operate to somewhat lower standards. Ensure your gas supplier is a legitimate and reputable distributor of dispense gases. The BFBi (the Brewing, Food and Beverage Industry Suppliers Association) operate a ‘Gas Suppliers Accreditation Scheme', and manage a ‘Register of Gas Fillers, Suppliers & Installers'. This scheme is designed to provide assurance to retailers that the beverage gas they buy is from an accredited supplier and that it is fit for purpose.

BCGA GN 30 provides guidance and advice to those who need to handle, use and store beverage gases. It addresses safety and operational issues associated with beverage gases, their use in cellars and beverage dispense pressure systems. The document covers cylinder identification, handling, use, corrosion prevention and product quality, and has been developed in consultation with the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) and the BFBi.

Licensees are under immense cost pressures, with competition from other leisure activities and greater consumption of alcohol in the home. Sadly, because gas cylinders are easily moved, they are often misappropriated and misused. Increasingly, outlets are being targeted by seemingly attractive offers from non-reputable suppliers of dispense gas. By flouting the law they trade by offering cheap ‘beverage' gas to pubs. Do not be tempted as the consequences of this are:

  • One cylinder of bad dispense gas will ruin up to 10 kegs of beer.
  • You will lose customers through poor beer quality.
  • Your supplier will refuse compensation claims.
  • You will be at risk of prosecution for being in breach of several laws. e.g.- Health and Safety at Work etc. Act- Food Regulations
    - Carriage of Dangerous Goods (CDG) Regulations

Some of the problems associated with non-reputable suppliers include cylinders incorrectly filled; not adequately checked for food grade gas quality; filled with the wrong gas (e.g. compressed air instead of N2) or allowed to become unsafe from internal corrosion and/or being out of test. The result may be simply poor quality beer, but could also be much more serious, with catastrophic cylinder failure a real possibility.

Whilst your cylinder should be in good condition, it is very important to ensure:

  • It has a label displaying information on the contents and the gas supplier.
  • It has a food traceability label.
  • The valve outlet is sealed.
  • The cylinder is in date for its inspection and test (check the cylinder test rings).

BCGA works closely with other Trade Associations such as the BBPA and the BFBi to ensure the safety and quality of gases and their gas cylinders. Jointly we have produced BCGA Leaflet 10, which provides information on obtaining the right quality dispense gas in a serviceable and legal gas cylinder. The HSE, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) and Local Authorities have welcomed Leaflet 10.

Corroded beverage gas cylinders can explode dramatically, causing huge damage, injury and even fatality. This is an example of the damage caused by a beverage gas cylinder explosion.

Picture: A licensed premises. October 2012.

BCGA will continue to support efforts to eradicate the unsafe and illegal supply of beverage gas cylinders.

Working with the BBPA and the BFBI, BCGA have produced two posters, for display at the workplace, including the cellar, to help publicise the hazards of incorrectly obtaining, storing and using beverage gases.  These can be downloaded below:

 

Security

Gas cylinders, as well as beer kegs, are ‘attractive' items for thieves. All gas cylinders should be stored in a secure area. Particular care should be taken when gas cylinders are located ready for delivery/collection.

Only return gas cylinders back to their rightful owner, for beverage gases this is normally either the gas supplier or the brewer. Information on the return and disposal of gas cylinders can be found on the cylinder recovery and disposal page.

Training

All staff handling or using gas cylinders are required to have had adequate training. This includes manual handling, connecting and disconnecting cylinders, a knowledge of the beverage gas dispense system and the properties of the individual gases and their appropriate storage requirements. The training should include information on working in a confined space and the actions to be taken in the event of gas leakage or any likely incident involving gas cylinders.

Safety Data Sheets are to be available for all gases held.

A Powerpoint presentation, to assist with training staff on beverage gases, is available here.

Confined space risks and regulations

All gases, with the exception of oxygen can kill by asphyxiation if released into confined spaces. Enriched Carbon Dioxide atmospheres can also be intoxicating.  Landlords and event organisers should be alert to confined space risks in the case of an accidental release of gas. The law requires that an adequate risk assessment is carried out and appropriate control measures are put in place to protect those accessing or working in the area. BCGA Guidance Note 9 offers guidance on the application of the Confined Spaces Regulations to the drinks dispense industry.

The use of liquid nitrogen, liquid CO2 and dry ice

Pubs, clubs and events are venues where, sometimes, people fool around with gases. This can be by inhalation, or to produce dramatic effects in cocktail drinks.

BCGA Leaflet 7 explains the dangersof misusing gases and the potential hazards that can occur if gases are used irresponsibly.

BCGA TIS7 provides information and safety advice for dry ice.

Insurance

Pubs, clubs and events need adequate Professional Indemnity and Product Liability insurances, which can be rendered void if they do not use their gases and look after their gas cylinders in a safe and responsible way. Have you told your insurers what gases you have and what you do with them?

Committees

Within BCGA beverage gases are the responsibility of Technical Sub-Committee (TSC) 5. BCGA participate in the Beverage Gases Working Group, this includes representation from the DfT, HSE, the BBPA and BFBi. Members can access information on TSC5 and the Beverage Gases Working Group via the ‘Members' area.

Publications

This website has a plethora of advice on how to use, store, transport and handle industrial, medical and food gases safely. All BCGA publications are accessible via the ‘Publications' page. The following publications are of interest:

Beverage Gas Services

Find out more about the safe use of beverage gases, keep your employees safe and ensure your customers get the quality drinks that the brewer intended. For more information see our Beverage Gas Services page.