Ammonia delivers at Australian brewery

The Stone & Wood Brewing Company turned to the natural refrigerant ammonia for a new refrigeration plant at its brewery in Murwillumbah, New South Wales.

Mycom ammonia screw compressor package, Murwillumbah.

Every six to twelve months, the Stone & Wood Brewing Co. was purchasing another Freon chiller to serve its growing cooling needs. Its industrial refrigeration contractor – Gordon Brothers Industries Pty Ltd. – recommended installing an ammonia plant at its brewery in Murwillumbah, New South Wales instead. The new system began operating on 1 October. Accelerate Australia & NZ reports.

Founded in 1917, Gordon Brothers is Australia’s oldest industrial refrigeration business and has been working with ammonia since the beginning.

“Stone & Wood have previously used Freon packages for their refrigeration needs, and have gone through a period of very high growth,” says Scott Clydesdale, senior project engineer at Gordon Brothers Industries.

“Just recently, there’s been a step change. We were fortunate enough to secure the order to install an ammonia-based refrigeration plant to replace the Freon package that they had on site,” Clydesdale explains.

“The great benefit of ammonia is obviously that it’s environmentally friendly, and it has an efficiency advantage over the Freon,” he says.

Discussions with Stone & Wood began in mid-2016, when it became clear that rapid sales growth would surpass the capacity of the Murwillumbah site’s refrigeration plant.

“Stone & Wood are a very environmentally and socially aware company,” Clydesdale says. “They do things that may cost them more in the short term, because it’s the right thing to do.”

The line in the sand between ammonia and HFCs is disappearing.
– Scott Clydesdale, Gordon Brothers

Strong business case for NatRefs

Previously, Gordon Brothers had been servicing the Freon packages for a couple of years. Rather than adding another Freon chiller every time a new load increase was required, Clydesdale made the case for switching to ammonia.

“We went through the figures and said, ‘look, you can keep putting Freon packages in there and it will only cost you this much, but if you were to install an ammonia plant, you’d find that your dollars per kilowatt – your bang for your buck – improves to the point that your carbon footprint is lower,” he explains.

“You go from using something that’s not particularly friendly to the environment to something that’s quite benign. They were really sold on those ideas,” he says.

The company priced the ammonia system in late 2016. Stone & Wood placed the order in February 2017 and installation began in July 2017. Final commissioning and fine-tuning took place in September.

“It was definitely a step change for them. But they understand that two, three or four years from now, they’d have looked back and said, ‘why are we still putting these things in? They cost us a fortune to run, and now we’ve got 10 of them!” Clydesdale quips.

“They’ve got a full-blown ammonia plant in there now, which is a much better option going forward.”

The Byron Bay area has a humid subtropical climate, with hot summers and mild winters. The daily average temperature in summer is 27°C, with the mercury frequently hitting the mid-30s. Winters have daily maximums of around 19°C.

What kind of challenges do these high summer temperatures pose for the natural-refrigerant system?

“There are no real challenges for ammonia, over than a large evaporative condenser to account for the higher ambient wet bulb compared to more southern locations,” Clydesdale says.

Gordon Brothers is confident that its customer made the right decision in opting for natural refrigerants.

“Stone & Wood have definitely seen an end point that they want to go to – they’ve seen that the power absorbed from the ammonia vs. the Freon gives a massive benefit to the ammonia,” Clydesdale says.

“There’s a real benefit to making that change now, rather than having continued along that path for some years to come,” he adds.

This is a shorter version of the cover story of the spring edition of Accelerate Australia & NZ magazine. To read it in full, please click here.

By Andrew Williams

Oct 27, 2017, 14:10

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