Sustainable food refrigeration

Sustainable food refrigeration

Food manufacturers and cold storage businesses who are not using natural refrigerants could be in for costly and environmentally damaging times with EU legislation coming into force on 1st January 2020.

The Legislation

UK customers should be planning to replace refrigerants that have Global Warming Potential (GWP) of above 2500 as they will be banned under the European F-Gas legislation in certain static refrigeration applications. Reclaimed and re-processed refrigerant can continue to be used for servicing of existing equipment until 2030 but is likely to become costly and in short supply. Already we have seen incredible price hikes through the phase out of r22 refrigerant. Most cooling systems using greenhouse gases will have to be replaced with those that can handle natural refrigerants, such as ammonia – an environmentally-friendly refrigerant that has no impact on global warming or ozone depletion - to comply with the legislation which is set to be applied worldwide, including the UK after Brexit. GEA is urging food companies to take action sooner rather than later as time is running out to install the new natural refrigerant based systems, needed to reduce their environmental impact, and it is not possible in the vast majority of cases to retrofit an F-gas system with a natural gas, especially ammonia.


The 'Natural' Solution

GEA is helping to deliver one of the most energy-efficient frozen food distribution centres in Europe and continuously works with food manufacturers and retailers on ammonia based refrigeration plants. Usually in a food storage environment up to 90% of energy use is for refrigeration; while this operation has a cooling capacity equivalent to 12,000 domestic chest freezers, the facility only consumes less than a third of the power used by the two cold stores it is replacing when comparing size. What’s more, water and chemical consumption has been reduced by 86% with the annual water saving equivalent to 11 Olympic sized swimming pools. The ammonia absorber in the plant rejects its heat into a common condensing system, which enables recovery for both underfloor heating and defrost. This considerably reduces other associated waste streams, such as cooling tower water, chemicals, effluent, fan and pump power. Heat is also recovered for underfloor heating by subcooling ammonia which not only provides free heat but improves the compressor efficiency to boot.

See video above for a complete overview of this UK award-winning installation.

The Result

At GEA we believe that food manufacturers should not delay switching to cooling systems that can reduce their emissions and power bills, citing an ammonia plant (especially a centralised one) as significantly more efficient than cold stores using greenhouse gases. Our refrigeration expert Robert Unsworth, has been invited by Business Report to be part of the UK 2030: Future of Food campaign where he shared further insights into the topic. Watch the entire interview here.

Below are some of his additional comments on the topic:

Cooling is very much in the spotlight and the deadline for switching to environmentally-friendly refrigerants is drawing nearer. I would estimate less than five percent of cooling systems in the UK can be effectively adapted so those putting off installing a new system or are ignorant of the legislation could find it comes back to haunt them. If cold stores, factories or freezers use one of the gases which is banned from the end of this year, or the final 2030 deadline, depending on the type of system, a leak could prove devastating as they may not be able to replace the gas in time to avoid a full or partial catastrophe. GEA offers an entire solution, and we’re also driving this concept with the heat pump instead of a boiler for generating heat and reducing waste streams.”

The next steps

A heat pump is a far more eco-friendly and profitable solution than traditional heating alternatives. Industry, local authorities and homeowners have been using them for heating applications for many years – and food factories are now starting to see the significant financial and environmental benefits of using heat pumps in production processes, especially those that require application of heat during preparation and subsequent chilling. Sustainability targets do help to focus minds and GEA, one of the world’s leading suppliers of high-tech equipment and solutions, is on hand to help food companies comply with the new legislation to reduce CO2 emissions, as well as take advantage of the energy savings available through heat pump technology while on this road.

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