When First Milk, a farmer-owned dairy co-operative base in Glasgow, Scotland, decided to replace an aging chiller at one of its two creameries last year, it didn’t allow the COVID-19 pandemic to stand in its way.
Owned by the family farms that supply it with milk and invest capital in the business, First Milk produces cheddar, regional cheeses and dairy ingredients, as well as marketing fresh raw milk to many other UK dairy processors. Its Lake District Creamery, located in Aspatria, in Cumbria (northwestern England), produces cheddar under the Lake District Dairy Co. brand, as well as for its own-label retail customers.
Last year, the creamery’s R404A refrigeration system in its “rapid cool store (RCS)” was approaching the end of its life. So First Milk decided to replace it with a low charge ammonia Azanechiller 2.0 system, provided by Glasgow-based Star Refrigeration, which described the installation on its website. The cooling system was part of a £3.5 million (US$4.8 million) investment First Milk made in upgrading the creamery in order to help meet its net-zero carbon agenda.
In the RCS, the cheese enters with a core temperature of approximately 30°C (86°F) and is held for 18 hours to reduce the core temperature to 12°C (53.6°F) before being palletized and stored.
The modular air-cooled Azanechiller, which uses only 42kg (92.6lbs) of ammonia, has delivered some tangible benefits, reported by Star. For example, the unit works in conjunction with the chilling tunnel to enable the creamery to increase its cheese output by just under 30%.
In terms of efficiency, the Azanechiller has improved operating efficiency by about 25% compared to new refrigeration systems using HFCs and HFOs, Star said.
In addition, First Milk’s new Azanechiller 2.0 exceeds the “Minimum Energy Efficiency Requirements” set by the Ecodesign for Energy-Related Products Regulations – the U.K. instrument that enacts the European Ecodesign Directive – by 75.2%.
“The Azanechiller 2.0 boosts the capacity of the chill store plant and offers great efficiency by delivering immediate reductions on our energy costs,” said Ian Wilson, Project Engineer for First Milk. “This development also helps towards our First4Milk net zero commitments, delivering more efficient and environmentally friendly refrigeration.”
This installation was carried out during “the most constrictive Covid-19 restrictions,” said Star. However, delivery of the equipment to the site was not affected and Star maintained its usual lead times.
“Star worked with its suppliers, staff and customers to minimize the effects of the virus and deliver on pre-Covid time frames and with all the necessary health and safety requirements,” Star said. “The ‘plug and play’ feature of the chiller ensures the on-site installation time is kept to an absolute minimum and the unit is ready for operation as soon as possible.”
Star had installed the R404A chiller in 1985, so it was familiar with the operation. “It’s nice to work with them again as they understand our requirements and can inform us of the new technology available since the original install,” said Wilson.
“Updating our rapid cool store was phase three in our four-phase strategic plan to increase capacity significantly, and Star proposed a safe, efficient and reliable option,” added Wilson.
The Azanechiller 2.0 is manufactured and run-tested at Star’s production facilities in Glasgow before being delivered to site, charged and ready to commission. Installation is “simple,” said Star, requiring a suitable base concrete/steelwork, connection of secondary pipework and an electrical power supply.
First Milk was able to attend one of Star’s manufacturing sites in Westway, Scotland, in order to check the Azanechiller 2.0 live.
First Milk has taken a two-year warranty, two-year maintenance plan and dial-out service for preventative maintenance, so that Star’s aftercare engineering team can “remotely interrogate the plant to ensure it is running as expected,” said Star.
“The Azanechiller 2.0 boosts the capacity of the chill store plant and offers great efficiency by delivering immediate reductions on our energy costs.”Ian Wilson, First Milk.
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