As the centerpiece of many meals, from a mouth-watering family roast to fillets, nuggets, curries or kievs, chicken has become the favorite of nations across the world. Consequently, demand is constantly high – as are the hygiene standards in poultry processing plants to ensure that the product reaches the plate in the freshest and safest condition.

Cool and hot challenges

Wipasz SA is one of the largest Polish feed producers and leader in the production of fresh chicken meat, providing high quality, healthy and safe food for people and animals. For its newly launched poultry plant, at Międzyrzec Podlaski in Poland, the company was seeking solutions to make the production more sustainable and energy efficient.

GEA was chosen by Wipasz for this complex project thanks to the long-standing relationship the two companies have established through previous cooperation. This included Wipasz‘s other poultry production site in Mława, where GEA supplied an environmentally-friendly ammonia refrigeration system, alongside a ventilation and heating system.

Andrzej Wachink, Technical Director of Wipasz S.A., said: “The new plant is very vast and very modern. We set GEA three challenges: keeping the plant cool; the recovery of waste heat to reduce energy consumption of boilers used for the production of hot water, and to create adequate ventilation, especially in the slaughter area.“

A cool solution

Ammonia based cooler installed in the chicken processing plant
Ammonia based cooler installed in the chicken processing plant

The cooling systems require around half of the plant’s energy capacity: immediately after the slaughtering process the poultry must be cooled very quickly to 4 degrees Celsius, and must then be maintained at this temperature and at low levels of humidity throughout the cutting and packing processes until it is further chilled or frozen for distribution. The cutting area at the plant, which has the capacity to process up to 14,500 chickens per hour, is very spacious so a highly efficient solution was required to maintain the appropriate low ambient operating temperatures to keep the meat temperature low and stable.

The freezing and chilling processes are also extremely temperature-sensitive, with product for fresh distribution packed at 0 degrees C and the remainder batch frozen to minus 18 degrees C, for export or further processing such as for chicken nuggets. Finally, the same system needed to allow for ventilation, the continuous refreshment of air, as well as air conditioning in both the factory and offices to help regulate temperature and humidity levels.

GEA Grasso 2-stage screw compressor units in the refrigeration plant room of Wipasz
GEA Grasso 2-stage screw compressor units in the refrigeration plant room of Wipasz

In order to meet the plant’s varied requirements, GEA designed, engineered and delivered 5.3 MW of cooling capacity for five plate freezers, five batch freezing tunnels, two cold stores and 64 air coolers. The equipment includes GEA reciprocating compressor units - Grasso V1800 for air conditioning of the plant, a Grasso Screw Compressor SP1 driving the main cooling process for poultry, and a Grasso Screw Compressor SP2 for freezing and generating the heat for water and air conditioning.

The combination of these screw and piston compressor units offers the best of each GEA technology such as prolonged service intervals and maximum efficiency even with part load experienced at the plant at different times of each production day and across different seasons. In addition, the firm has installed eight air handling units for ventilation of the production rooms and four for air conditioning of office building, all supplied with cooling from the central ammonia plant and heat recovered from it.

The new refrigeration system in place at Międzyrzec Podlaski also has the built-in potential to further expand its cooling capacity by another 3.2 MW, making it much easier for the plant to expand production in the future without starting from scratch.

Heat recovery for a future-proof plant

Partial view of GEA Grasso 65HP reciprocating compressor-based heat pump
Partial view of GEA Grasso 65HP reciprocating compressor-based heat pump

Wipasz was also equipped with two heat recovery systems that cover the facility’s entire hot water needs and other heating demands, including offices and social areas, meaning a reduced carbon footprint and very quick return on investment thanks to the lack of boiler requirement.

Hygiene standards for poultry processing are very high. Plants consume huge amounts of hot water – in Wipasz’s case around 500 cubic metres every day - with about half this volume used for cleaning. The moisture left behind must be removed by an efficient ventilation system as production areas need to be dry, which in turn requires a lot of heating. Overall heating demand of this plant including all office buildings and technical zones is 3.9 MW where steam boiler is only used as a back-up.

The GEA customized 65 HP heat pump is an important component of the factory’s waste heat recycling system, producing higher temperatures up to 55⁰C. Energy-efficient heat pumps are rapidly becoming the technology of choice in the drive for a carbon neutral future, to meet ever-stricter environmental regulations, but also to enable food manufacturers to hit their own sustainability goals and reduce operating costs. When a heat pump is combined with a refrigeration unit, both cooling and heating are possible, turning one-time use into a continuous cycle and lowering energy costs by 30% or more. That’s a significant saving when you consider that within the food, dairy and beverage industries, up to 60% of energy usage goes to heating and cooling.

Poultry factories such as Wipasz see the significant financial and environmental benefits of using heat recovery and a heat pump in production processes, especially those that require the application of heat during preparation and subsequent chilling and freezing.

“GEA has vast experience of cooling systems in factories of this type and met all the requirements with great efficiency and organization. The assembly of the refrigerating machine room was extremely complicated with many heat exchangers and kilometers of piping, however GEA showed great skills in this area. It’s a very professional company and I would recommend them to anyone involved in the meat industry.”– Andrzej Wachink, technical director of Wipasz S.A.

Satisfying result and continued close collaboration

The new poultry processing plant of Wipasz in Międzyrzec Podlaski, Poland
The new poultry processing plant of Wipasz in Międzyrzec Podlaski, Poland

Marek Mierzwinski, technical sales manager, Refrigeration Technologies, GEA Poland added: “Wipasz is a very valuable customer and partner to us, and the whole project has been based on an inspiring discussion process. They invited me in during their early plant design phase so the heating and cooling integration with production process could be optimized in the best way for the whole processing plant. We learn from each other and work together to drive for a more energy-efficient and future-proofed production plant.”

Thanks to their success in consistently designing and supplying highly sustainable processing solutions for the Wipasz plants, GEA was presented with a gold medal by owner Mr Józef Wiśniewski at the joint celebrations for the company’s 25th anniversary and opening of the new factory.

So it looks as though the world’s favourite meat is in safe hands and, thanks to Wipasz and GEA, families can look forward to tasty poultry treats for many years to come.

GEA scope of suppy

GEA solution: Customized refrigeration and heating system
Cooling capacity: 5.3 MW
Heating capacity: 3.9 MW
Compressor type: GEA Screw and Reciprocating compressors
Natural refrigerant: Ammonia