Star Refrigeration’s Low-Charge Ammonia System Improves Efficiency, Increases Capacity for U.K. Dairy

Star Refrigeration’s Low-Charge Ammonia System Improves Efficiency, Increases Capacity for U.K. Dairy

Star Refrigeration upgraded First Milk’s cheese chilling system with a new low-charge ammonia Azanechiller 2.0.

Scottish OEM Star Refrigeration announced that it has replaced U.K. dairy First Milk’s aging R404A cheese chilling system with the low-charge ammonia/NH3 (R717) Azanechiller 2.0, improving operating efficiency by 25% while also increasing production throughput capacity by almost 30%.

Owned by the family farms that supply it with milk and invest capital in its business, the First Milk Lake District Creamery produces cheddar, regional cheeses and dairy ingredients, and it markets fresh raw milk to many other U.K. dairy processors.

In 2021, the British milk cooperative invested £3.5 million (US$4.13 million/€4.15 million) in upgrading the creamery to help meet the company’s net-zero carbon agenda, including replacing its cooling system, according to a statement by Star Refrigeration.

Working in conjunction with First Milk, Star Refrigeration’s Newcastle branch was tasked with the large-scale replacement of the cooling equipment. Star recommended its low-charge ammonia Azanechiller 2.0 to fulfill all the requirements. The OEM provided the pre-engineered modular air-cooled chiller to work in conjunction with the chilling tunnel to enable the creamery to increase its cheese output by just under 30%.

“In terms of efficiency, the low-charge ammonia Azanechiller has an overall improved operating efficiency of about 25% when compared to new refrigeration systems using HFCs and HFOs,” said Star. The low-charge ammonia aspect addresses health and safety concerns as the current model has a charge of just 42kg (92.6lbs) of ammonia.

“We worked with Star Refrigeration on our chill plants many years ago – going all the way back to 1976,” Ian Wilson Project Engineer from First Milk said. “The current cheese chill store which required replacing was installed by Star in 1985, so 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. 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.”

Exceeding efficiency expectations

The dairy’s existing Rapid Cool Store (RCS) was limited in the number of cheese blocks it could process and has been replaced with a store that meets current and future needs. The cheese enters the RCS with a core temperature of approximately 30°C (86°F) and is held for 18 hours to reduce the temperature to 12°C (54°F) before being palletized and stored.

First Milk’s new Azanechiller 2.0 exceeds the “Minimum Energy Efficiency Requirements” set by the U.K.’s Ecodesign for Energy-Related Products Regulations 2010 by 75.2%. As a result, the new installation will have a significant impact on cutting First Milk’s carbon emissions and provide considerable energy savings for the business. This shows an even greater efficiency than the initial product test data.

“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 Wilson. “This development also helps towards our First4Milk net zero commitments, delivering more efficient and environmentally friendly refrigeration.”

The Azanechiller 2.0 is tested at Star’s production facilities in Glasgow before being delivered to site, charged and ready to commission. Installation required a suitable base of concrete/steelwork, connection to secondary pipework and an electrical power supply. First Milk was able to attend one of Star’s manufacturing sites in Westway, Scotland, to observe the Azanechiller 2.0 live in action.

“We’ve managed to tick all the boxes for First Milk, delivering a future-proof refrigerant to give peace of mind and a more efficient chill store with an increased capacity.”

Michael Younger, Star Refrigeration

Star helps with documentation

First Milk has taken a two-year warranty, two-year maintenance plan and dial-out service for preventive maintenance so that Star’s aftercare engineering team can remotely interrogate the plant to ensure it is running as expected.

To comply with the U.K.’s Pressure Systems Safety Regulations 2000 and the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER), the user of a refrigeration plant is required to prepare a Written Scheme of Examination for the plant, which Star included for this system and its first examination. The Written Scheme document incorporated a description of the system, including each pressure vessel and safety device, and it provided a detailed inspection schedule. The work was carried out by Star’s in-group technical consultancy business Star Technical Solutions.

This installation was carried out during the most severe COVID-19 restrictions. However, the job was not delayed; delivery of the equipment to site was not affected, and Star maintained its usual lead times from receipt of the order.

Although COVID-19 developments were moving at a rapid pace, Star worked with its suppliers, staff and customers to minimize the effects of the virus and deliver on pre-COVID time frames, meeting all the necessary health and safety requirements. The plug-and-play feature of the chiller ensured the on-site installation time was kept to an absolute minimum, and the unit was ready for operation as soon as possible.

“We always work flexibly to meet client requirements, which in this case included bespoke manufacturing,” explained Michael Younger, Contracts Manager at Star’s Newcastle branch. “We’ve managed to tick all the boxes for First Milk, delivering a future-proof refrigerant to give peace of mind and a more efficient chill store with an increased capacity.”

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