Food Lovers Market: future-proofing its supermarkets with CO2

Food Lovers Market: future-proofing its supermarkets with CO2

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By Ilana Koegelenberg with inputs from CRS
Food Lovers Market’s first trans-critical CO2 store recently opened in Ferndale, Randburg Johannesburg, and the client is very happy with the result.

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The new store opened on 27 June this year.
All Photos by Ilana Koegelenberg

The Food Lovers Market Ferndale project started construction at the end of February 2019. The project took about five months to complete and the store was finally opened on 27 June 2019.

This was a newly-designed store, gutting what was originally an old retail store. The Ferndale Food Lovers Market store is the first Generation Four store in Gauteng. Along with an energy efficient CO2 system, the development team also specified LED lighting, energy efficient bakery equipment, and installed energy meters on all departments to closely monitor usage. “There are a lot of ‘firsts’ on this project and we are very proud to have worked with CRS,” says Arthur Woest, project manager for Food Lovers. “We are very impressed with their high levels of service, professionalism, and the way that they managed the refrigeration project.”

This is also the first Food Lovers store to feature the new concrete polyurethane floor. The floors are resistant to damage under high traffic and demanding conditions, improve safety by preventing slipping, and have a nice-looking finish. Although slightly higher in cost, these floors have durability and a longer life span . The floor was installed by Safari Spec and supplied by Technical Finishes.

This is also the first shop in Gaute0ng to have animatronics with a moving cow head and waving scarecrow alongside the dairy aisles.

The right system for the job

Food Lovers Market has traditionally gone with synthetic refrigerant systems. However, after much discussion with the Commercial Refrigeration Services (CRS) team about the advantages of CO2, including being a future-proof solution, they decided to go for the CO2 trans-critical booster system. This was a good time for Food Lovers to get their foot in the door with regards to having the latest technology on the market.

“The job was the right size to go CO2,” explains Maurice Robinson of Commercial Refrigeration Services (CRS), a Sphere company. “It was a cost-effective option and also fitted in with the Food Lovers sustainability programme that is heading to a more environmentally friendly way forward,” he says.

Client brief

The brief specified: supply and install a CO2 trans-critical booster refrigeration pack, including all evaporator coils, making use of Carel controls, and Bitzer compressors and electronic expansion valves.

The refrigeration plant was to include a monitoring system. A main board had to be included to feed the refrigeration pack and all sub boards.

They also included 47kW of heat recovery to heat water from 20°C to 55°C at 30% running capacity. Everything with regards to the refrigeration system was driven towards efficiency and being as environmentally friendly as possible.

CRS was selected for the design and installation of the project as they offered the right price for their pilot project and boasted vast knowledge on CO2 – from designing, manufacturing, and installing racks for over 10 years. “We have an active history of working with these kinds of projects in all ambient conditions, making us a reliable choice,” explains Robinson.

System description

The cooling capacity in kW of the total refrigeration system is 235kW. The refrigeration pack was locally designed, manufactured and installed by CRS.
The new CO2 refrigeration booster system conditions for site were:

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Cabinets and cold rooms

The new store offers a 2 673m2 shop floor with a variety of products – from fresh fish to hot foods.
The following cabinets and cold rooms are served by the CO2 refrigeration system...

Medium temp:

Low temp:

Food Lovers sourced its cabinets from Colcab.
Heat reclaim of the CO2 refrigeration system was incorporated into the pack, therefore it makes no use of electrical heating to generate hot water.

Challenges

No project is without its challenges but luckily these were handled professionally by the team to ensure an on-schedule opening nonetheless.

Space and layout was the biggest challenge. The new layout still featured the retail level on ground floor, with second floor as receiving and the plant on the third floor. However, the previous retailer had the plant room on the second floor (which has now been replaced by a canteen). This meant that with a much smaller third floor space, the team had to fit an entire plant in a third of the space previously allocated. Impressively, they managed to fit in the condensers as well as the whole CO2 plant into the available space – a great win in terms of footprint.

Working with a previously fitted HVAC system, the CRS team also had to design the piping around the ducting and electrics for the animatronics – another challenge they overcame.

Going CO2

One of the greatest sustainability factors is the use of the environmentally friendly, natural refrigerant CO2 boasting zero ozone depleting potential (ODP) and a global warming potential (GWP) of 1. “With natural refrigerants being the future, CO2 is great to use in public spaces such as retail where other refrigerants such as ammonia are limited,” explains Robinson.

CO2 is widely available as a by-product of several industries and is significantly cheaper than synthetic refrigerant alternatives. In Europe, HFC prices have increased drastically over the past few years and are continuing to climb in response to more pressure under the F-Gas regulations to move towards more environmentally friendly refrigerants.

“The price is growing in proportion to the GWP,” explains Robinson. “This has a great impact on South Africa as the countries we import from are phasing out HFC gases, creating a supply and demand dilemma and as a result there are sharp price increases.”
With green credentials, carbon dioxide (CO 2) is becoming a leading choice of refrigerant globally. Global legislation, as well as the Kyoto and Montreal Protocols, which reviewed substances linked to ODP and GWP encourage its use.

“With the phase out of HCFC refrigerants, the supermarket industry is having to look to alternative, long term, energy efficient solutions. Carbon dioxide (R744) is rapidly becoming the industry choice for an alternative refrigerant due to its favourable environmental properties,” says Robinson.

But it’s not just HCFCs that are becoming a problem. As the HFC phasedown gains ground across the globe with more and more countries ratifying the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, companies are being forced to reconsider HFC installations. South Africa recently ratified this amendment and our own phasedown commences in 2024. However, Europe started much earlier.

“In Europe, HFC prices doubled in 2017 with an increase of about 800% expected for 2019,” explains Robinson. Prices seem to be growing proportional to GWP. As all our refrigerants are imported (we do not manufacture any locally), this means that HFC prices are increasing rapidly. “Another reason to go natural,” explains Robinson.

He shared facts from Öko-Recherche, an independent and internationally operating office for environmental research and consulting based in Frankfurt, Germany to emphasise this point. In Q1/2019, 69 companies from 11 EU Member States and all supply chain levels (three gas producers, six gas distributors, 26 OEMs, 34 service companies) and one association of service companies, reported purchase and/ or selling prices for HFCs and alternatives. These were the results…

CRS is very confident about the list of benefits of the natural refrigerant. “CO2 is an excellent choice when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” says Robinson. “It provides high performance and exceptional properties for heat reclaim due to its high heat transfer capabilities.”

Other benefits include the fact that CO2 has excellent volumetric efficiency (more than five times the cooling effect per volume as R22), resulting in reduced compressor and pipe sizes for the same cooling effect, low consumption ratio (the ratio between inlet and outlet pressures from the compressor), and low viscosity (making it easier to pump). Also, CO2 is widely available as a by-product in a number of industries and the cost of CO2 gas is very low.

“A big advantage of opting for a trans-critical CO2 system is that it operates on one gas as opposed to a cascade system,” says Robinson.

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A happy client

Food Lovers is very proud of this pilot project. According to Woest: “The system is quiet, manageable from a central point, and all data can be easily collated, therefore feedback collected can assist with preventing any potential liabilities that can result in stock loss.”

Project prof list

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