Rebuilding After an Earthquake

Yokohama Reito is constructing a NatRef-based, solar-powered fish sorting and freezing facility in an area devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Kesennuma City, located in Japan's Miyagi Prefecture, is a coastal town known as one of the country's largest commercial fishing bases. In March 2011, it was completely devastated by tsunami waves and subsequent fires — ignited by fuel from the town's fishing fleet — in the Great East Japan Earthquake.

One of the casualties of the quake was a fish processing, storage and distribution plant operated by Yokohama Reito, a major Japanese cold storage provider with about 50 facilities; the plant lost its freezing section.

But on April 24 of this year, Yokohama Reito broke ground on a new fish sorting, processing and cold storage facility in Kesennuma City, where the company has been since 1968.

Construction of the facility is scheduled to be completed by June 2021.

"In 2011, due to the Great East Japan Earthquake, our freezing facility suffered catastrophic damage,” said Toshio Yoshikawa, Chairman and Representative Director of Yokohama Reito, in an article on the Japanese trade journal LNEWS.  “However, miraculously, our refrigerated warehouses, offices, and processing plants remained intact and through the effort of all of our employees, we were able to resume business.”

"Today,” he added, “10 years after the nightmarish disaster, we've started construction on a new state-of-the-art facility."

Made of reinforced concrete

To protect it against future earthquakes, the new facility will be made of reinforced concrete and include areas for fish sorting, quick freezing, processing and storage as well as administrative and office space. Also taking into account the threat of earthquakes and tsunami waves, the facility's machine and electrical rooms will be located on the second floor and roof.

Three NH3/CO2 refrigeration systems will supply cooling for 21,130m³ (746,195ft³) of low-temperature frozen storage space. In addition, five direct-expansion ammonia refrigeration systems will cool five 90m³ (3,178ft³) quick-freezing rooms. Finally, one CO2 refrigeration system will handle the medium-temperature fresh fish storage area. (Yokohama Reito declined to name the supplier of the refrigeration systems.)

The facility will also feature a 567kW photovoltaic solar power generation system, a 3.8kWh lithium-ion storage battery, LED lighting and a building energy management system. According to Yokohama Reito’s latest investor's guide, 12 of the company's distribution centers have solar power generating systems in Japan. These systems generated 3.48 million kWh of electricity during the 2019 fiscal year (ending September 30, 2019).

Growing use of NatRefs in cold storage

Yokohama Reito, based in Yokohama City, Japan, is one of the largest users of natural refrigerant-based systems for cold storage warehousing in Japan. It has installed several NH3/CO2 systems and CO2 condensing units for its cold storage facilities in the past few years. (See and

According to the investor’s guide, the company has a total of about 2,450,000m³ (86,520,933ft³) of cold storage capacity. It currently uses natural refrigerants in approximately 60% of this space.

In Japan, a large percentage of cold storage facilities still use R22, though this is decreasing, while at the same time, the use of natural refrigerants is increasing, according to data from the Japan Association of Refrigerated Warehouses (JARW).

"Among our members, the use of R22 has dropped from nearly 80% in 2012 to 58% in 2018," said Shigekatsu Koganemaru, Vice-Chairman of the Environmental Safety Committee of JARW, who spoke during the ATMOsphere Japan 2020 conference (organized by shecco, publisher of Accelerate Magazine) in February in Tokyo. "In the same time, the use of natural refrigerants has gone from 17% to 31%."

And while large companies like Yokohama Reito continue to push for the use of natural refrigerants in the country, the majority of the cold storage operators in Japan are small- and medium-sized businesses for which the adoption of natural refrigerants is more difficult.

Reaching these business owners to educate them about the benefits of switching to natural refrigerants will be the key going forward, Koganemaru said.

By Devin Yoshimoto

Jun 18, 2020, 11:29

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