Australian winery leading the way with sustainability initiatives

By Elke Milner, Oct 15, 2015, 10:47 4 minute reading

In August, De Bortoli Wines was recognised by the Australian Business Awards for it’s decade-long commitment to sustainability. Delivering on eight key sustainable initiatives since 2004, the third-generation winery has installed environmentally friendly ammonia refrigeration and solar technology, among a number of projects, with substantial financial aid from a now-defunct government grant helping pave the way.

De Bortoli Wines is one of Australia’s largest privately owned companies and has achieved massive energy reductions across its eight sites throughout Australia. Aside from its green refrigeration and pioneering solar technology, the company is now using grid power more efficiently and has implemented sweeping changes to its winemaking, packaging, warehousing and site services.
Named an ABA100 Winner in Sustainability at the Australian Business Awards this August, the family company has delivered on its eight key sustainable initiatives, with its ‘Re-Engineering Our Future for a Carbon Economy Project’ plan central to becoming a zero waste winery.
Key to the accolade was a centralised refrigeration unit utilising ammonia at De Bortoli’s Bilbul headquarters, near Griffith in New South Wales, and the installation of the largest solar panel array of any Australian winery (at the time) as well as a focus on minimising waste, maximising water efficiency and reducing energy consumption in all areas of business. 
De Bortoli received a big boost in 2012 with just under $5AUD million (€3,200,000) in grants under the Clean Technology Program (an incentive scheme the former Liberal government abolished in August 2013) filtering through to complement an $11AUD million (€7,000,000) investment made by De Bortoli.
“The grants allowed us to roll out many of our energy projects, including some with more marginal ROI, and bring them to fruition earlier than we had planned for,” says De Bortoli’s engineering manager Tarek Heiland. “Our approach to the energy grants was pretty holistic, and rather than identify a singular large project, the whole site included many projects for grant inclusion.”
“The grant came at the right time and place for us. There had already been a lot of thought and time spent on various projects so when the grant came along it allowed us to crystallise these into action immediately.” 
Ammonia the perfect fit for large-scale winery refrigeration
For wineries, the refrigeration plant represents a major consumer of electrical energy as a proportion of the total energy used for a site. De Bortoli knew that it had to ensure it found a solution that could cool its crushed product as quickly as possible using the minimum amount of energy.
From an energy perspective, Heiland said refrigeration accounted for at least 70% the Bilbul site’s energy consumption, so even small savings in this area make for substantive benefits.
The refrigeration systems were initially installed by White Refrigeration at Bilbul’s two refrigeration plants – “North” and “South”. Industrial refrigeration service provider Oomiak was involved with the South side upgrades with Alberton Electrical, for the automation, while the North side changes were implemented by Tritech and Griffith Electronic Services.
The old Freon refrigeration plant (including two reciprocal compressors) was replaced by the ammonia units, using a brine solution as a secondary refrigerant - with the goal to increase capacity, improve efficiency and reduce the company’s carbon footprint.
The two plants include the following features:
  • Two Sullair compressors, since replaced by Grasso (South) and Mycom (North)
  • South side direct on the line compressor motors
  • North side uses one variable speed compressor
  • Both fitted with variable speed fan control (adjustable according to ambient humidity) to limit power consumption
  • Screw compressor package
  • Plate heat exchangers
  • Evaporative condenser and associated brine pumps (using 400kW at vintage peak)
  • 230kW solar panels generate around half of that during daylight hours

Out with the old, in with the new

Using 2009 as a baseline (an average year in terms of the Griffith climate), De Bortoli compared the old HFC systems to the new ammonia refrigeration systems, measuring data across a 12-month period, from May 2014 to April 2015.
De Bortoli found that the refrigeration used 5.6MWh in 2009 compared to 4.6MWh during the 2014-2015 period, amounting to a 17.3% reduction in energy consumption.
To increase the plant’s COP, the installation included replacing the existing liquid injection method of water-cooled oil cooling, installing variable speed to condenser fans, a floating head pressure control and using heat reclaim from the refrigeration plant to heat water. 
“Winery operation is typically characterised by two very different heat loads,” Heiland says. “During vintage (approximately 3 months) the plant is running at basically 100% with the aim of cooling crushed product as quickly as possible. For the rest of the year the load is much more modest. This means the plant has to run in two very different operating conditions, and efficiency benefits of capital improvements can vary depending on the loading.”
As such, the company is also attempting to identify the maximum temperature to store its product at. “Winemakers traditionally want the product as cold as possible but De Bortoli is endeavouring to find the energy value point while retaining maximum product quality.”
De Bortoli’s other sizeable plant in Victoria’s Yarra Valley winery region is currently running a packaged Freon plant. It is flagged for replacement in the next few years, and Heiland says ammonia would be the logical choice for its replacement. 


By Elke Milner

Oct 15, 2015, 10:47

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