Innovative heat pumps for potato chip driers and the London Underground are helping keep German manufacturer GEA at the forefront of the ammonia industrial refrigeration market. At Chillventa next month the company will launch another new heat pump, the RedAstrum.
Headquartered in Düsseldorf, Germany, GEA provides process technology and components for production processes in the food and energy sectors. Its portfolio includes equipment designed for natural refrigerants ammonia, CO2 and hydrocarbons.
Accelerate Europe spoke to Kenneth Hoffmann, the company’s product manager for heat pumps, to hear how the drive for a more sustainable energy system is creating new opportunities for natural refrigerants in Europe.
Towards plug ‘n’ play: making natrefs more accessible
“You see customers getting fed up of replacing their HFC systems over and over again because of legislation. What we’re seeing is that natural refrigerants are creeping into new markets,” Hoffmann said.
Nonetheless, he freely admits that natural refrigerants are not advancing as quickly as GEA had hoped. “With the f-gas reductions that are coming up in future, I think there will be much higher uptake – when people suddenly realise that now they actually do need to do things differently to what they have been doing so far,” he argued.
Whereas responsibility for assembling refrigeration plants was once left with the customer, Hoffman believes current market trends favour ready-to-use solutions. “What we’re doing is trying to make it easier to install natural refrigerants. We’re packaging our products more as plug ‘n’ play,” he said.
“It’s about trying to stay ahead of the market by developing new products that are more efficient and that meet market demand. Products that are easier to install,” he added.
Opening doors to new markets
Hoffmann believes that making the technology more accessible will help broaden the appeal of natural refrigerants. “Just add power and water, and you’re up and running. Hopefully this will open doors to new markets,” he said.
Several new GEA products are already delivering just that. At the European Heat Pump Association’s annual forum, held in Paris on 18-20 May, Hoffmann presented a new ammonia-based, air-to-air heat pump for potato chip driers.
With an annual coefficient of performance of 7.0, the heat pump is capable of delivering hot water at up to 80 degrees Celsius and delivers greenhouse gas emission reductions of up to 70% compared to conventional gas boiler heating.
“It’s a combined heating and cooling solution,” Hoffmann explained. Rather than rejecting the heat used to dry the potatoes, the new system dehumidifies the air in a closed loop before it is reused to heat the next batch. “We’re recovering the energy within the system and thereby using a lot less energy,” he said. Using a closed loop system minimises the risk of refrigerant leakage.
All aboard! Harnessing the London Underground
The ammonia heat pump for the London Underground, meanwhile, will reclaim hot air from a ventilation shaft at a constant temperature of 24-30 degrees Celsius. The system is ready and will be installed as soon as other sections of the project have been completed.
The installation, for Islington Council, will supply cooling capacity for London Underground trains as well as providing hot water for nearby buildings.
Islington Council installed a district-heating network in 2013. At the heart of the project is the Bunhill Energy Centre, comprising a gas-fired combined heat and power (CHP) engine and thermal store that provide heat and power to around 850 homes and two leisure centres.
In 2016 the network is being extended to serve the King’s Square housing estate. The extension includes a new energy centre that incorporates the heat recovered from the London Underground, thanks to the ammonia heat pump.
He believes the project may inspire similar schemes in other densely populated areas.
RedAstrum heat pump to be launched at Chillventa
Hoffmann is also excited about another new ammonia heat pump, the RedAstrum, which will be officially launched at Chillventa in Nuremburg on 11-13 October. The RedAstrum offers a combined heating and cooling solution for industrial applications and district heating.
“In the food industry today, we’re seeing requests from customers for bigger and bigger capacities. We’re getting to a size that our piston compressor can’t handle any more – and if you need multiple piston compressors, then it becomes a more expensive solution,” Hoffmann explains.
“The RedAstrum is able to do more than 2 MW in a single heat pump. That is attractive to customers. We’ve already supplied a few of them. Most requests have come from Scandinavia,” he says.