Compressed Gas Industry Expects Sufficient Dry Ice Supply for COVID-19 Vaccines in U.S. & Canada

November 9, 2020

Some of the COVID-19 vaccines currently under development require storage and transportation at extremely low temperatures. Dry ice (solid carbon dioxide) is needed to reach and maintain those temperatures.

The majority of carbon dioxide (CO2) and dry ice in the U.S. and Canada is produced by member companies of the Compressed Gas Association (CGA).

According to CGA members, the current production capacity for carbon dioxide and dry ice is expected to be sufficient to meet anticipated demand from vaccine manufacturers. There is also potential capacity to increase production and distribution of dry ice for COVID-19 vaccines, if needed. Our industry is committed to supporting the need for dry ice in the U.S. and Canada, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dry Ice Overview

Dry ice is the solid form of carbon dioxide and is extremely cold (−109 °F / −78 °C).

Today, dry ice is widely produced and distributed across the U.S. and Canada. In addition to vaccine cooling, it is used extensively as a cooling agent in a variety of other applications, including food chilling and freezing, blood and tissue sample preservation, heat treating of metals, and even special effects for events.

Carbon Dioxide and Dry Ice Production in the U.S. and Canada

CO2 is produced primarily as a byproduct of industrial manufacturing, including the production of ethanol, ammonia (fertilizer manufacturing), hydrogen/refining processes, and natural wells.

CGA members report that the carbon dioxide production capacity in the United States and Canada is 30,000 to 35,000 tons per day.

Earlier this year, regional shortages of carbon dioxide were reported in the U.S. These shortages were driven by a decrease in ethanol and hydrogen production along with other periodic source outages, and have since been reduced.

Dry ice uses approximately 15% of CO2 capacity and is widely produced across the U.S. and Canada. This provides important redundancies, helping to ensure that if any one facility needs to shut down or is otherwise unable to meet the demand for dry ice, product from elsewhere can be reallocated as needed. Vaccine supply chain officials estimate that less than 5% of dry ice production will be needed to support the ultracold storage of COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. and Canada.

The compressed gas industry is committed to using our considerable resources and flexibility to increase supply and storage capacity of dry ice for COVID-19 vaccines, as needed.

Meeting Dry Ice Supply Needs for COVID-19 Vaccines in the U.S. & Canada

The key to maintaining dry ice supplies lies in vaccine manufacturers working closely with dry ice and carbon dioxide producers and distributors, as well as dry ice equipment manufacturers, to configure appropriate onsite storage and delivery capacities, in anticipation of growing demand.

CGA and our member companies are working to increase communication and collaboration across the supply chain to help anticipate the volume of increased demand, and to identify storage and delivery solutions for those facilities facing challenges.

Industry members are working on a daily basis to monitor and respond to the rapidly changing situation, coordinating proactively with vaccine manufacturers and health and government authorities to stay ahead of challenges as they develop. Specifically:

  • CGA and our members are working with regulators and local governments in the U.S. and Canada to reduce hurdles and speed delivery.
  • CGA members are working to ramp up and/or reallocate production so that dry ice is available when and where it’s needed – responding through flexible distribution, product swaps, and wholesale agreements to meet customer demands.
  • CGA members are reallocating resources when possible in response to high-demand situations.

Whatever challenges lie ahead in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, the compressed gas industry is committed to making every effort to ensure sufficient supplies of dry ice for COVID-19 vaccines.

For more information and technical details about CO2 and dry ice, see CGA’s Carbon Dioxide & Dry Ice Fact Sheet.