Energy Partners Refrigeration (EPR), a South African Cooling-as-a-Service (CaaS) provider, has installed a three-stage ammonia (R717) refrigeration system at a Sovereign Foods’ processing facility in Hartbeespoort, South Africa.
According to EPR’s simulation technology, the new system is expected to reduce the site’s energy consumption by roughly 20%, compared to its previous refrigeration infrastructure, which consisted of two separate ammonia systems. The new system also includes steam production and heat recovery for added value.
In addition to designing and installing the system, EPR also operates and maintains Sovereign Foods’ new refrigeration equipment on a CaaS basis, which enables the food processor to benefit from an efficient system without the upfront investment. Under its CaaS agreement, Sovereign Foods simply pays EPR for the amount of refrigeration and steam it uses.
“Sovereign’s strategy is to partner with service providers who offer reliable, cost-effective and innovative solutions and Energy Partners was able to offer solutions for both steam and refrigeration,” explained Pieter van der Smit, Production Manager at Sovereign Foods. “The offering of steam and cooling [as a service] reduces our risk profile and enables us to focus on our core business of producing high quality, affordable and very tasty products for our customers.”
Details of the project have been shared by the Servitization for Energy Transition (SET) Alliance in a case study. Founded by the Basel Agency for Sustainable Energy (BASE) in 2022, the SET Alliance is working to scale up the adoption of the servitization business model across various markets, including refrigeration, cooling and heating. ATMOsphere, publisher of Ammonia21.com, is a partner of the SET Alliance.
“The offering of steam and cooling [as a service] reduces our risk profile and enables us to focus on our core business of producing high quality, affordable and very tasty products for our customers.”Pieter van der Smit, Sovereign Foods
The new system consists of screw and reciprocating compressors, evaporative condensers and water-based oil cooling for screw compressors. Variable speed drives on the compressors and condensers offer precise control and energy management, and a master control system optimizes the entire refrigeration process.
It also includes a heat reclaim system that recovers waste heat from the compressor oil cooling process to preheat the facility’s hot water. In doing so, Sovereign Foods has reduced its reliance on its boilers, lowering its fuel consumption.
Integrated steam production offers additional efficiency savings and ensures optimal performance and versatility across the facility’s different heating and cooling requirements.
“Cooling is the backbone of the process, starting with climate-controlled production areas, process chilled water and blast freezing applications, where the product temperatures need to be brought down from 80°C [176°F] to -18°C [-0.4°F],” said van der Smit. “Steam is predominately used in the cooking process and needs to be reliable and of a very high standard.”
Reduced energy use, footprint and noise
The Hartbeespoort facility’s previous refrigeration systems were outdated, unable to accommodate the food processor’s increasing production demands and failed to meet local noise regulations. The new system addresses all three issues, with high energy efficiency, increased capacity and reduced noise.
With a cooling capacity of 5.4MW (1,535TR) – and the potential to add an extra 11.8MW (3,355TR) – the new system can easily accommodate Sovereign Foods’ growing production needs. Future expansion plans are also made feasible thanks to the system’s reduced footprint and energy consumption, as the site is subject to electricity supply limitations.
To ensure local noise regulations are met, EPR redesigned the facility’ plant room, and noise attenuator filters have been integrated into the ventilation system. Not only do these measures ensure regulatory compliance, but they also ensure a more pleasant working environment for employees.
The US$4.8 million (€4.48 million)-project highlights the potential of integrated HVAC&R solutions in the food processing sector. With an emphasis on energy efficiency and the use of natural refrigerants, it demonstrates responsible growth within the industry.
Growth of CaaS
EPR and Sovereign Foods have worked together previously on a US$4 million (€3.74 million)-project in 2021, where the contractor installed a new ammonia refrigeration system as well as outsourced steam and waste heat recovery at the food processor’s facility in Uitenhage, South Africa.
Since launching its CaaS solution in 2016, EPR has developed a strong track record through successful projects with clients like Clover, Dr. Oetker, and Afrupro. It now manages an asset base of over US$30 million (€28 million).
Globally, there a growing interest in CaaS and other servitization business models, such as Refrigeration as a Service (RaaS) and Heating as a Service (HaaS), with several manufacturers and other organizations offering such solutions.
Over the last few years, BASE has been spearheading the concept of servitization in the cooling sector via its CaaS Initiative and now the SET Alliance.