Drakes opts for ammonia to cool new warehouse

In June 2019, Drakes Supermarkets plans to open a new A$90m ammonia-based distribution centre in the northern suburbs of Adelaide. Accelerate Australia & NZ reports.

A Drakes Foodland store in North Haven, NSW.

Faced with the challenge of reducing operating costs in a climate of rising Australian energy prices, Drakes Supermarkets plans to open a new A$90m distribution centre in the northern suburbs of Adelaide in June 2019. The facility’s cooling system will be based on ammonia.

The 50,000 m2 building will occupy a 17-hectare site in Edinburgh North, a northern Adelaide suburb that is part of the City of Playford local government area.

“Our Adelaide distribution centre is a major investment in the sustainable future of Drakes Supermarkets in South Australia,” said Bob Soang, Drakes’ general manager.

Drakes Supermarkets is one of the largest independent grocery retailers in Australia, with an annual turnover of over A$1 billion. It currently operates around 60 stores.

Construction of the new distribution centre is expected to employ some 300 people. The centre, whose expected pallet capacity is 52,000, will require 150-250 full-time staff once it opens in the middle of next year.

“As a local family-owned business we are pleased to create so many jobs in the northern suburbs of Adelaide,” Soang said.

The refrigerated area to be served by the ammonia system is 12,500 m2. The frozen goods section will have a pallet capacity of 6,000, with space for another 9,000 in the chilled goods area.

Soang chose Gordon Brothers Industries Pty Ltd. as the refrigeration contractor for the Adelaide facility. Founded in 1917, Gordon Brothers is Australia’s oldest industrial refrigeration business and has been working with ammonia since day one.

Drakes, meanwhile, is proud to have been the first retailer to install a transcritical CO2 system in a southern-hemisphere supermarket. That system was commissioned in December 2007 at a Drakes Foodmarkets store in Angle Vale, north Adelaide.

Earlier this year, Drakes opened three new CO2 transcritical stores, located at Goodwood Road, Wayville, South Australia (SA), Stebonheath Road, Penfield (SA) and Ardrossen Road, Caboolture, Queensland.

For warehousing this large, you have to look at ammonia.
– Bob Soang, Drakes

Strong business case for natural refrigerants

Environmental sustainability is not the only thing driving Drakes to adopt natural refrigerants to serve its HVAC&R needs.

On 1 July 2017, South Australia overtook Denmark in having the world’s most expensive electricity, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. In a retail sector where profit margins are already razor-thin, fluctuating energy costs can have a dramatic effect on a food retailer’s bottom line.

Soang, therefore, fully expects natural refrigerants to make greater inroads into industrial refrigeration at Drakes too.

“For warehousing this large, you have to look at ammonia,” he said.

Click here to read the full version of this story in the new edition of Accelerate Australia & NZ magazine.

By Andrew Williams

Nov 13, 2018, 10:10

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