GEA chill factor reduces carbon footprint for food manufacturer

A leading food manufacturer is massively reducing its carbon emissions and saving on energy costs at a plant in the UK, by replacing an aging multi-package-style refrigeration system with heat pumps and ammonia glycol chillers supplied by international technology specialist GEA.

Going greener

The customer has a long-standing relationship with GEA in the UK and, after putting out the project to competitive tender because of the value, chose GEA’s ammonia-based solution as the best way forward to provide a sustainable and cost-effective alternative to the client’s previous set-up using man-made refrigerants.

GEA installed ammonia glycol chillers and a glycol distribution system to cool the factory and its processes, with a cascade CO2 system for blast chilling product. GEA also added an ammonia heat pump to provide wash-down water and hot water for cook quench chills (CQCs), which unload the client’s boilers in an efficient and environmentally-friendly manner. By replacing large amounts of synthetic refrigerants with only tens of kilograms of ammonia, GEA has guaranteed the client’s refrigerant use for the lifetime of this more industrial solution, and guaranteed the system’s longevity (impossible with a non-natural refrigerant).

Challenging installation

GEA’s chillers and heat pumps are manufactured and tested in Berlin, so that when they arrive in the UK it only takes a day or so to get them up and running. Installing the glycol coolers and infrastructure throughout a working factory in a safe and efficient manner without disrupting production, was more of a challenge; however, with the client’s cooperation and teamwork the project was delivered on time without any major issues.

Once installed a rolling programme of commissioning took place over several months. The chillers were commissioned first with cold glycol circulating round the factory header system and, over time, air coolers were put in place. Another advantage for the client was that the new operating temperatures highlighted a ventilation issue which had previously gone undetected.

Raising the temperature

Robert Unsworth, GEA’s Technical Sales Director, said the integration of glycol chillers for cooling the factory at +2 to +5°C and heat pumps for circulating hot water at +65°C around the facility has provided the client with a significant improvement in conditions and reduced running costs, as well as enhancing its green credentials.

He explained: “Producing heat in this way cuts carbon emissions by approximately 80-90% compared to a boiler and it obviously costs less to run as well. Benefits of the new equipment to the client include better room temperatures, reliability and reduction in service costs and less boiler usage and gas consumption due to the heat pump.”

Using heat pumps is much more eco-friendly than gas boilers as they add no nitrogen oxide (NOx) to the atmosphere, have staggering CO2 reduction levels (in fact can provide zero carbon heating), providing cleaner air as well as offering a financial payback, and ammonia is a natural refrigerant that has no impact on global warming or Ozone depletion.

Heat pump for heat decarbonisation

Heat pumps convert renewable or waste energy from buildings and processes to provide useful heating. For example during cooling, refrigeration systems emit heat from a condenser, which is normally simply released into the environment. The heat pump captures this valuable resource and then boosts the temperature to produce heat suitable for other production purposes.

“For example, the heat taken out of the product in your refrigerator at home leaves at the rear and warms up the kitchen. In a factory environment with a much larger “refrigerator”, adding a heat pump is like connecting the back of the fridge to your oven and using this heat to cook with,” added Unsworth.

GEA’s industrial heat pumps range from 300 KW to 40 MW, which means they can handle just about any application from hot wash-down water to city-wide district heating. GEA has the advantage of being able to combine extensive process knowledge and expertise in integrated heating and cooling solutions to benefit customers across the world.


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Media contact

Kiran Grewal
Editor, International Bakery

Tel: +44 (0) 1622 823 922


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