GEA Advocates for Ammonia Cooling Systems as 2020 Ban Looms

GEA recently advised UK customers to begin 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 starting from January 1, 2020.

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.

In a press release, GEA notes that 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 has already installed a large ammonia-based system for a major food manufacturer and retailer incorporating mechanical and absorption cooling, helping to deliver one of the most energy-efficient frozen food distribution centers in Europe. 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 have 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.

Robert Unsworth, Head of Sales Refrigeration for GEA UK, believes food manufacturers should not delay switching to cooling systems that can reduce their emissions and power bills, citing an ammonia plant as significantly more efficient than cold stores using greenhouse gases.

“Cooling is very much in the spotlight and the deadline for switching the environmentally-friendly refrigerants is drawing nearer. I would estimate less than 5% 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,” said Unsworth.

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 the application of heat during preparation and subsequent chilling.

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