Cooling-as-a-Service Ammonia Installation at South African Dairy Factory Exceeds Efficiency Expectations

Cooling-as-a-Service Ammonia Installation at South African Dairy Factory Exceeds Efficiency Expectations

Clover’s Queensburgh dairy factory in South Africa benefitted from an outsourced ammonia retrofit.

Energy Partners Refrigeration (EPR), a South African cooling-as-a-service (CaaS) implementer, installed a 10MW (2,843TR) two-stage ammonia/NH3 (R717) system at South Africa’s largest dairy company, Clover, in 2022, and the performance has so far exceeded forecasts.

EPR has measured an efficiency improvement of nearly 40% compared to the previous operation.

Partners in the project also included BASE and the Clean Cooling Collaborative.

Clover was established 124 years ago and has a 30% market share in the South African dairy industry, as outlined in a case study presented by the global CaaS Initiative. The company is currently consolidating and upgrading its manufacturing facilities, starting with its Queensburgh production center in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, which was selected as the pilot site to trial the CaaS model. The first phase of this project was completed in January 2022 without any downtime to the facility.

The refrigeration system at Queensburgh was using outdated technology and unable to face the new production load resulting from the consolidation of various facilities there, according to EPR. Its improvement constitutes the largest single CaaS investment EPR has made since adopting the servitization approach.

CaaS improves Clover’s profitability

EPR offers the pay-per-use CaaS model that enables clients to benefit from the most efficient refrigeration equipment without the usual large upfront investment cost. “This allows them to drastically reduce their environmental footprints without the financial burden while enhancing their profitability,” explained Dawie Kriel, Head of Business Development, Energy Partners Refrigeration.

The Queensburgh project was estimated to increase the refrigeration system’s COP by 30% compared to the original operation, but the actual results have exceeded EPR’s forecasts. Within its first months of operation, EPR measured a close to 40% improvement in efficiency. The system is operating within its contracted specifications and at 102% of its estimated load. 

The project was engineered to be installed without any break in production, limiting downtime of the refrigeration system to a few weekends to manage the changeover. Transferring the refrigeration load from the old system to the new was a great engineering challenge that required carefully coordinated steps with the factory.

In January 2022, the delivery of the first phase of the project was completed, including a new two-stage ammonia refrigeration system with modern control technology. It also features limited ice storage plus waste heat recovery for hot water. Energy Partners also installed a solar photovoltaic (PV) system, significantly reducing the operations cost.  

“Environmentally, this project is exceeding all expectations,” said Kriel. Thanks to the solar installation, which provides 16% of all electricity used, 2,100 metric tons of greenhouse gases (GHG) are saved every year. Efficiency gains and the heat recovery add a further 4,470 metric tons per year.

Designed with expansion in mind

Initially delivering 9,500kW (2,701TR) of cooling capacity, the system was expected to provide the full 10,000kW (2,843TR) once phase two of the project was completed in June, which includes butter freezing and an ice storage system, the. The plant has been designed to be expanded to 15,000kW (4,265TR) in the future. The second stage of implementation was also expected to further upgrade the solar assistance, bringing the peak generation to 1,900kWp (kilowatts peak) and the total investment value to €8.8 million (US$9.1 million).

“Being able to provide CaaS to a blue-chip company like Clover has been a great privilege and opportunity for us. It is a showcase for efficient and sustainable refrigeration brought about by the innovation of Cooling as a Service,” said Kriel.

Financially, the project construction phase was funded by Investec, while Nedbank will support the long-term phase. Removing the upfront investment requirement enabled Clover to free-up capital to further invest in its upgrade project. This, together with a modern automated refrigeration plant for which Energy Partners committed to guaranteed uptime and efficiency, was very attractive to the end user. “Definitely a win-win situation for both parties,” said Anton Pretorius, Group Manager Clover.

“As businesses seek ways to accelerate their path to Net Zero, whilst limiting their risk exposure and recovering from a global pandemic,” said Pretorius, “CaaS provides a strong solution to support companies in doing so sustainably. CaaS brings forward energy efficiency gains, and increased life-cycle performance, while also accelerating the implementation of a circular economy.”

EPR has successfully implemented natural refrigerant CaaS projects for numerous end users in Africa, including for international food producer Dr. Oetker.

“CaaS brings forward energy efficiency gains, and increased life-cycle performance, while also accelerating the implementation of a circular economy.”

Anton Pretorius, Clover

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