By Heather Wilkinson
Sikorski Sausages Co. Ltd. is a second generation family-run business in Southwestern Ontario, which produces and packages over 100 specialty European meat products. The company relies heavily on large refrigeration systems to maintain product safety and freshness during processing, packaging, and storage operations. Utilizing top-quality cooling systems is imperative for safeguarding the environment from harmful emissions, ensuring the quality of its products, and protecting profits.
A planned facility expansion would almost double Sikorski’s space and the business required new equipment that would offer longterm solutions. In addition, the solution had to allow a transition to a system with advanced design and control platforms which would deliver significant energy savings. “We find that customers are increasingly interested in systems which increase energy efficiency, and that they will not need to replace in the next seven to 10 years due to changing regulations, decommissioned refrigerants, or system failures,” notes Ben Kungl, president and owner of Oxford Energy Solutions (OES).
OES has been developing and promoting Canadian designed and built refrigeration equipment from its facility in the Woodstock, ON area since 2006. It challenges stagnant, inefficient refrigeration designs by creating a platform which offers a solution to the impact of cooling on the environment.
In partnership with OES, grocery stores and cold storage warehouses install completely integrated, lower GWP refrigerant, zero ODP, oil-reduced and oil-free systems with solar panel energy offset. “They want refrigerants and cooling systems that have the longevity to support growing, lucrative businesses and make the best environmental choice to meet global and individual sustainable development goals,” says Kungl.
Regulations that accelerate the phase-out of manufacturing, importation, and distribution of legacy refrigerants require alternatives.
The Sikorski facility previously used R-404a refrigerant, which is no longer allowed in new installations. Hydrofluoro-olefin (HFO) based refrigerants meet regulatory requirements of reducing harmful atmospheric emissions.
The relationship between refrigerants and maintenance requires the consideration of system pressure. Components must work harder to achieve results with higher pressures, increasing required energy and causing stress on system components prone to leaking, greater maintenance requirements, and environmental risks. With energy efficiency and lower maintenance costs a priority for food processors, choosing a high-pressure system at the Sikorski facility would have raised the risk of compromising product safety due to the increased possibility of downtime.
Finding a solution
A low pressure differential system with a zero-leak design, electronically governed, no pressure-dependent devices in the equipment, and an adaptable, intuitive user interface was selected for the Sikorski project. The system lowers the required head pressure and compressor ratio, reducing the required internal heat of compression. Maximizing the energy reduction of low compression ratios offers better energy consumption results, lowers the environmental impact, and removes end-of-life equipment issues.
“It maintains the lowest possible pressure differentials throughout the system to achieve a long-term platform that targets zero refrigerant leakage,” says Kungl. The system utilizes Honeywell’s R-515B, a non-flammable, HFO blend with a much-reduced GWP of 293. It demonstrates environmental and performance benefits in commercial refrigeration systems, offering a low-risk alternative to HFC fluids that do not meet regulatory criteria. Beyond the dramatic 92 per cent reduction in GWP from R-404a, R-515B low-pressure attributes, combined with the non-toxicity and non-flammability, offers considerable advantages in comparison to other alternate refrigerants.
Conventional systems require more refrigerant, while the low-pressure differential platform uses a much lower charge to accomplish greater efficiency with improved safety. The design maximizes how the refrigerant is used, using only the required amount to do the work, with no extra chemicals and no waste.
Machine learning and adaptive predictability allow the system to assess component operation and efficiencies and respond appropriately. The system digitally controls pressures needed to push refrigerant through the equipment – based on a constant influx of information gathered from sensors that consider factors such as changes in ambient temperatures or load profiles.
The conventional system previously used by Sikorski was generating approximately 34.66 tons of Co2e. (Carbon dioxide equivalent or CO2e means the number of metric tons of CO2 emissions with the same global warming potential as one metric ton of another greenhouse gas.) With the low pressure differential system, emissions were calculated to be reduced to 6.18 tons: a reduction of 28.48 tons CO2e – or 82 per cent. Kungl adds that, “If we compare the low pressure differential solution to new conventional equipment, we see a minimum energy reduction of approximately 15 per cent.”
R-515B has an efficiency equivalent to R-134a, while the discharge temperature/pressure of the refrigerant is much lower than R-134a. In combination with R-515B, the platform’s attributes are stable even with a high-operating ambiance due to high critical temperatures. They do not require additional resources – unlike a CO2 system. In addition, water dependency in the refrigeration system’s heat-rejection is eliminated.
Sustainable refrigeration must consider the total equivalent warming impact (TEWI) for a comprehensive view of environmental impact. Equipment contribution to emissions exceeds GWP; complete impact measurements should also include indirect sources of emissions (refrigerant production processes, system operation, storage, and decommissioning). Every low pressure differential platform component is designed to reduce both direct and indirect environmental impacts. The ability to employ the nonflammable azeotropic blend in a commercial food storage/manufacturing facility accelerates a sustainable outcome greater than ammonia or CO2-based refrigerants on overall mechanical requirements, energy consumption, and maintenance costs over the life cycle of the equipment.
The low pressure HFO blend meets mandated regulations while offering customers the longevity they need from investments in their refrigeration equipment. Together with the low pressure differential system, the solution provided to Sikorski allowed the company to reach sustainable development goals, reduce energy consumption, and protect profits.
The sum of all parts
The low pressure platform with the EXVs, compressors and control system makes using this refrigerant possible with a high degree of success.
- EXVs are bipolar, fully hermetic stainless-steel valves, and are integrated with a system that optimizes the control of refrigerant throughout the refrigeration circuit.
- Scroll compressors and the monitoring, diagnostics and control sequence provide the foundation for the successful implementation of a low-pressure differential platform with the chosen refrigerant.
- Limitations caused by high pressures, ambient temperature and mechanical devices have been eliminate