State-of-the-art ammonia cooling  service for SA producer

State-of-the-art ammonia cooling service for SA producer

By Energy Partners Refrigeration, intro and editing by Benjamin Brits

When upgrading its storage and production facility, frozen food producer When upgrading its storage and production facility, frozen food producer Dr Oetker opted to outsource their refrigeration needs allowing them to focus on their core business while leaving the cooling to the experts.

All images by Energy Partners Refrigeration

The Dr Oetker story interestingly began with one of the key ingredients used in a multitude of food preparations: baking powder. It was produced in the back room of a Bielefeld chemist's shop in 1891. This is still where the company’s headquarters is located in northern Germany, while business activities are actively being managed in over 40 countries by this family enterprise.

You may already be familiar with the brand that brings restaurant style frozen pizzas into South African homes. According to the company’s history, the first frozen pizzas were introduced at a time when increasing numbers of freezers were finding their way into households, thus leading to the launch of this product in Germany in 1970. Today, innovations by Dr Oetker continue catering to changing consumer needs focusing on improved quality, and expansion on their product range.

In South Africa, it was in 2010 when Dr Oetker acquired the well-established businesses of Ital Pizza – known as South Africa’s favourite frozen pizza, Nice’n Easy frozen meals, and Green Valley frozen vegetables. In that same year, the world famous Dr Oetker Ristorante thin-crust frozen pizza was also launched here in South Africa.

Overview of the facility upgrade

Dr Oetker wanted to increase their production and storage capacity since their existing facility was running out of space. Energy Partners Refrigeration (EPR) was selected to install a new three-stage ammonia refrigeration plant through the cooling as a service (CaaS) model.

The installation included supply of cooling to:

  • the process areas
  • process fluids
  • blast freezers
  • holding freezers
  • cold rooms

The solution was provided at the new Johannesburg production facility (South Africa). Reclaimed heat from the plant was also included in the solution to generate hot water. With the correct selection in the plant, it could be optimised for operational efficiency and redundancy while achieving the lowest possible carbon footprint.

Some of the benefits to this upgrade, and subsequent CaaS solution, are the capital-sensitive nature of providing an optimised project in terms of efficiency, and the use of natural refrigerants that allow the client more flexibility in its capital allocation towards the project without compromising on the quality of cooling required.

The client is afforded access to a highly-efficient refrigeration system that has sufficient capacity to match its future expansions and the comfort that all operational and maintenance responsibility will be outsourced, giving the client the freedom to focus more on core activities.

The refrigeration system was part of a larger project to expand the production capacity of the operation. As with any large-scale project, there are always budget constraints that need to be managed. The outsourced model then allowed the client to free up budget towards the larger project aspects.

“We are extremely satisfied with the technical solution delivered by Energy Partners and working with people who have expertise and knowledge in this field is extremely valuable,” said Erkan Yağar Project Manager — Dr Oetker. “Not having to invest a huge amount of capital, as well as the cost savings, has enabled us to complete the entire project. EP has shown us that a good quality job can also be offered in South Africa. I see this as the beginning of a long term relationship.”

The project also offered great savings in terms of energy efficiency and reducing CO2 emissions. A baseline plant estimated at 20% less efficient will use 334MWh more electricity, which results in 317 tons of CO2 per year being avoided in this installation, based on energy-savings alone. When taking in an average refrigerant leak rate of 15%, the number of CO2 emissions avoided goes up to an annual amount of 1 200 tons.

Project background

Dr Oetker South Africa, being part of The Oetker Group, forms one of the biggest German-family enterprises. The new plant in Johannesburg (operational since July 2020), will double as a production and distribution facility and therefore requires significant amounts of cooling at different temperatures for its processing and holding areas respectively.

The compact site layout and long operating hours presented an ideal opportunity for using waste heat to also generate domestic hot water. A cooling service contract with full maintenance offer was signed for an initial 15-year contract period, with yearly extensions thereafter. Dr Oetker has the option to purchase the plant from EPR and to end the outsourcing contract at any stage, while the invoicing for the refrigeration services is made through EPR’s unique “cooling meter”.

The fixed payment per unit of cooling includes all operating costs, even the electricity consumed by the plant. This means that Dr Oetker will not be paying more for the plant operation even if the efficiency of the plant is lower than expected. The CaaS product offered to the client is an off-balance sheet transaction, with ownership of the plant residing with EPR. The solution provides a fully outsourced refrigeration system that includes the refrigeration plant, piping, and evaporators. This approach changes the relational dynamic from being a contractor to being a strategic business partner to the client. During the contract period, EPR will have full responsibility for operating and maintaining the plant; guaranteeing the capacity and quality of cooling that is being delivered to the different sections of the site.

EPR will also take full responsibility for any and all breakdowns that occur during the contract period, without any additional cost to the client, providing peace of mind and allowing them to focus on their core business operations. The client will be billed in ZAR/kWh consumed and will be refunded for the electricity that has been consumed by the refrigeration plant.

EP014Another view of the compressors in the plant room.

In many commercial and industrial businesses, refrigeration systems use between 20% (heavy industrial sector) to 45% (retail sector) and even as much as 80% (cold logistics) of the monthly facility electricity. In the life cycle cost of a refrigeration plant, this cost is by far the greatest component (capital and maintenance are the others) and vary between 50% and 75% in South Africa, explained Dawie Kriel: Head of Business Development Energy Partners Refrigeration.

“To manage this, it’s wise to include optimal design, equipment, control, monitoring and environmentally responsible technology to reduce the energy portion of the lifecycle cost by 20-50% resulting in significant savings. The CaaS model solves for the lowest life cycle cost solution placing the emphasis on energy efficiency,” said Kriel. “This approach is especially valuable in the industrial sector where businesses work with long term horizons but are often capex-constrained in the initial phase of production. Many of the businesses in South Africa are also battling to find and retain good technical expertise to run and maintain their own complex refrigeration systems at peak performance required for these facilities to see the efficiency needed. CaaS solves the biggest ownership headache – namely management focus, time and cost.”

Project refrigeration information

The new production facility was equipped with a total cooling capacity of 1671kW (475.2TR), split between -33°C, -9°C and 0°C suction conditions. It also uses heat reclaim to supply a portion of the building’s hot water requirements.

The plant includes the following components:

  • evaporators
  • refrigerant piping
  • plate heat exchangers
  • secondary pumps
  • wiring and controls

The plant comprises a three-stage ammonia system with six reciprocating compressors and two evaporative condensers. Heat recovery is done from the discharge gas. There is pumped overfeed to the low-stage and glycol secondary cooling on the high-stage.

From an execution point of view, the main challenge was been trying to coordinate between multiple services that have to do installations in an existing building. Building Information Modelling (BIM) has been of great assistance in minimising the number  of clashes.

“The challenges forced us to be innovative around pipe-routing and optimising the layout of the plant room in the space that was made available to us,” Kriel adds. “Not only is the client satisfied with the solution and the installation, the quality of workmanship has left them very impressed.” The heat recovery from the plant is also proving sufficient to provide the entire site with sufficient hot water for all domestic requirements.

List of professionals:

 Architect / Designer  Capex Projects
 Project manager   Capex Projects
 Consulting engineer  Electrical  CKR
   Mechanical  Energy Partners (Refrigeration) | ACEND (HVAC)
   Civil   Lines, Smolka and Associates (LSA)
 Contractors  Main building  JC Van Der Linde Venter Projects
   HVAC & R  Energy Partners Refrigeration | AIRGRO (HVAC)
   Wet services  GDM Plumbing
   Electrical   IEC
 Compressors  Grasso / GEA
 Condensers  BAC
 Evaporators  HC
 NH3 Pumps  Hermetic
 Glycol + CHW Pumps  Grundfos
 Insulation  Intertherm & Moz Insulation
 Valves  Danfoss & Herl
 Vessels   Viola
 Electrical Panels  IMC

Click here to read the issue of Cold Link Africa  

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