GEA’s multi-unit, natural refrigeration system contributes to the revitalization of major Netherlands arena.


Thialf ice stadium in Heerenveen, the Netherlands, undertook a major effort to address a host of issues including high energy costs and new environmental regulations for refrigeration systems.


Constructed in 1966, Thialf was the country’s third 400-meter artificial rink. The open-air facility was modeled after the Olympic ice stadium in Innsbrück, Austria, which hosted the 1964 Winter Olympics. Thialf is also the first-speed skating rink in The Netherlands with a concrete floor.

The Customer Challenge

With the passage of time, the Thialf stadium began to show its age despite various maintenance efforts. It was time to renovate the facility to re-attract top-level events. The goal was to revamp Thialf so that it offered better facilities, achieved 50% energy savings and, critically, utilized a more environment-friendly, natural refrigerant for its refrigeration system.

The GEA Solution


In recognition of its experience, GEA was asked to join the “Project Team New Thialf”. GEA was invited to share its ideas for a more efficient, sustainable and forward-thinking facility and to propose a low-energy refrigeration solution that would promise the highest coefficient of performance (COP) and offer the best ice quality.

Together with Thialf technicians, GEA designed and proposed a new refrigeration plant that swapped the R507/brine system for an NH3/brine system, which used far less energy and demonstrated better COP.

GEA was selected to deliver four NH3 chillers with a total cooling capacity of about 3 MW (853 tons). The 400 x 12-meter speed-skating rink and the 60 x 30-meter short-track rink are cooled using -18 °C brine, while the 333 x 5-meter training rink, 60 x 30-meter hockey rink and 30 x 30-meter recreation rink systems use -15°C brine, in total approximately 11.000 m2 ice surface.

The installation comprises two GEA screw compressor-driven chillers and two GEA piston compressor-driven chillers, each with an air- and a water-cooled condenser. Warm water is efficiently supplied by these water-cooled oil coolers, condensers, and desuperheaters.

The Outcome: 52% energy savings

The upgraded refrigeration system from GEA is achieving energy savings of 52% surpassing the original goal of 50%. In addition to the new GEA NH3 chillers and refrigeration system, the stadium benefits from heat pump technology, an improved roof with solar panels and wall insulation, among other upgrades. Thialf ice stadium is now the world’s fastest sea-level rink. Several new skating records have been achieved at Thialf, earning the rink the world’s third-highest ranking for speed records.