Belgian Foodservice Wholesaler Saves 50% in Energy with GEA Ammonia Refrigeration

Bidfood Horeca Service has doubled its freezer and cold storage space without increasing its energy consumption.

Photo credit: GEA

Bidfood Horeca Service, a Belgian foodservice wholesaler and part of Bidcorp Group, has doubled its cold storage space without increasing energy use by switching to a new ammonia/NH3 (R717) system from GEA at its facility in Beringen, Belgium.

“We have doubled our storage space, and we still use the same amount of energy – in other words we have a 50% energy reduction compared to the older HFC system,” said Bidfood Technical Manager Luc Gielen in a conversation with GEA Belgium Sales Engineer Tom Bressinck on GEA’s website. GEA handled the engineering and installation of the ammonia system.

Bidfood Horeca Service supplies hotels, restaurants, stores, bakeries, gas stations and other businesses in the Flanders part of Belgium with a wide range of food products.

“Having a Lean and Green [sustainability program] award means that sustainability is the norm for Bidfood, so we wanted to do everything possible to minimize our impact on the environment, but efficient energy use was also a priority,” said Gielen. To that end, Bidford’s goal was “to recoup the extra investment over and above the initially planned budget by lowering energy consumption,” he added.

The expansion has doubled the size of Bidfood’s freezer area from 2,000m2 (21,528ft2) to 4,000m2 (43,056ft2) and expanded the cold storage area by approximately 1,100m2 (11,840ft2). 

The ammonia system chosen by Bidfood replaced an old R134a/R404A system. Initially the plan was to keep the old HFC system for the existing facility and only install an ammonia system for the expansion. However, these plans were not entirely consistent with Bidfood’s green ambitions. “We therefore set our sights high: We wanted a completely new sustainable refrigeration system based on natural refrigerants that would pay for itself over time,” Gielen said. 

The GEA ammonia system

The solution chosen by Bidfood includes two GEA Grasso V450 compressors for low temperature (-22°C/-7.6°F) and two Grasso V600 compressors for medium temperature (2 to -12°C/35.6 to 10.4°F). The system is equipped with a Cabero adiabatic condenser, two liquid separators from Pomar and 16 Kelvion evaporators.

On why Bidfood chose an ammonia system from GEA, Gielen detailed his experience working with GEA compressors. “We were looking for the right partner to help us fine-tune and implement the project, and once again we set the bar high: We wanted to work with genuine specialists who know everything about refrigeration technology and who would push themselves as hard as we did.”

Bidfood had no doubt when it came to choosing a refrigerant, either. “We were determined to avoid using synthetic refrigerants, so there was no question that we would switch to ammonia, which to me is the gold standard,” Gielen said.

There was no question that we would switch to ammonia, which to me is the gold standard,” - Luc Gielen, Bidfood

The low-temperature capacity is 300kW (85.3TR), while for medium temperatures it’s 350kW (99.5TR); the expected COP for the low temperature was 5.76 and 3.5 for medium. The system was commissioned in Q1 of 2020 and has achieved its target COP, according to GEA’s Bressinck. The COP is even higher in part load, he added.

One of the considerations made by GEA and Bidfood during the design of the system and the choice of components was capital expenditure vs. operational costs. For the coolers they settled on “temperature selection with smallest Delta T possible,” Bressinck explained. “Larger coolers mean more CAPEX, but with each 1°C [1.8°F] we can go higher in temperature, we can win 3% of energy cost, so finding the right balance between CAPEX and OPEX is crucial.”

Addressing the choice of an adiabatic condenser, Bressinck said it “combines the best of two worlds,” using the cold outside temperature (as an air-cooled condenser) in winter and tackling the hot summers with an evaporative condenser. The solution has “a higher CAPEX, but the payback for an adiabatic condenser is on average 1.5 years.”

In other words, “Bidfood has not made the choice to go for the cheapest investment but has made the choice to go for the long-term sustainable solution,” Bressinck stressed.

The installation and commissioning have not been entirely straightforward. “Working on a greenfield in combination with construction work is always a challenge,” Bressinck noted. “Aligning the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, a high demanding customer and a strict timing is not new for us, but by working closely together [site supervisor, project manager and sales], we keep the communication line short so we could react promptly.”

“I really appreciated the fact that Tom [Bressinck] was my single point of contact throughout the project, but also that he could enlist the help of colleagues if other, highly specialized technical knowledge was needed,” concluded Gielen. “I’m delighted that we were able to accomplish this together.”

Want to find out more, or have something to say about this story? Join the ATMO Connect network to meet and engage with like-minded stakeholders in the clean cooling and natural refrigerant arena.

By Tine Stausholm (@TStausholm)

Jan 18, 2022, 17:12

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