PermaCold Engineering has established a track record for implementing green industrial refrigeration projects like low-charge ammonia. Steve Jackson explains the company’s mission.
From left: Jeff Buxton and Steve Jackson, PermaCold Engineering
Contractor PermaCold Engineering, in its design, installation and maintenance of industrial refrigeration systems, prides itself on providing energy-efficient, environmentally safe systems.
“We are committed to pursuing the latest technologies and embodying our slogan, ‘Our Planet – Our responsibility,’” the 23-year-old company says on its website.
Examples of this approach include PermaCold’s collaboration with Henningsen Cold Storage on its low-charge ammonia refrigeration designs (see page 30), and its consideration of CO2 systems when planning a new facility or retrofit, as well as its focus on capacity optimization and load shedding.
In this interview at his headquarters in Portland, Ore., Steve Jackson, PermaCold’s president and senior managing partner and a 45-year industry veteran, discusses the company’s strategies and ideals.
How did you get started working with Henningsen Cold Storage on low-charge ammonia systems?
Steve Jackson: The Henningsen projects started out with engineers talking. We do an awful lot of work with Henningsen, particularly with Paul Henningsen, the corporate engineer, and Pete Lepschat, engineering services manager. Pete’s an interesting guy – he questions everything. So he asks why do we have 20,000 pounds of ammonia here, 30,000 pounds there – why do we need all of this? So he worked with our vice president Randy Cieloha on reducing that charge.
What did they come up with?
Steve Jackson: This isn’t like NXTCOLD or Evapcold, where units are shipped in. They looked at everything [in a conventional system]. Why do we need that vessel? Why do these lines have to be so big? Why can’t we take [oil cooling] heat and do something with it? So the whole project was, let’s see if we can do something smarter. And we were trying to get below the threshold of 10,000 pounds of ammonia to make it a little safer, and we did. We’re replicating this in a new [Henningsen facility] in Salem, Oregon.
What are you doing to improve energy efficiency?
Steve Jackson: Load shedding – reducing the amount of refrigeration required. We put together a symposium a couple of years ago where our corporate engineer modeled a 100,000-square-foot cold storage facility built in 1980 and one built in 2013. We brought all of our engineers and salespeople in, and we brought in manufacturers of panels, doors, controls, and lighting. We showed them that we were able to reduce the load from 1980 to 2013 by 58%.
“‘Because it’s the right thing to do’ should be the only reason we do it.”
– Steve Jackson, PermaCold Engineering
How has your company been impacted by regulations?
Steve Jackson: When OSHA and EPA came into our life, all of our energy was spent complying with this, designing to that. For about 15 years, that’s all we did. But the regulatory stuff is easy because the federal government is writing all of the text for you. It appeals to people who don’t really want to do the hard work. I want to be ahead of regulations; I want them to write their manuals based on how we do things, because we do it better.
How are you bringing your approach to new technology and load shedding to your customers?
Steve Jackson: Not all customers are willing to do it. What’s holding us back is getting people to open up to this. It’s hard work; you have to sit and do the engineering. When I hired Jeff Buxton [EIT – energy conservation manager], I didn’t let him talk to anybody in this building but me. Now, two-and-a-half years later, he’s an expert in this. We didn’t let him fall into the trap of thinking, “This is how I’ve always done it – why would you want to change it?”
How did you develop your philosophy?
Steve Jackson: I think it was the nuns at St. Stephen’s that taught me that our goal on this planet is to get up tomorrow and make it better than it was yesterday. And I’ve believed that my whole life. We’re breathing fresh air and drinking clean water but it’s not as fresh and clean as it was when I was a child. If we continue down this path, what will my great-grandchildren be breathing and drinking? I care about that.
I was with a guy last night who was going through a list of why we should do something. I told him at the bottom of the list write, “because it’s the right thing to do.” He looked at me and said, “my boss doesn’t care about that.” I told him your boss really does care about that, and if you want, have your boss call me and I’ll talk to him. “Because it’s the right thing to do” should be the only reason we do it. I truly believe that.
The original version of this article appeared in the November-December issue of Accelerate America (acceleratena.com).