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Improving freezing and refrigeration

The use of refrigeration and freezing is widespread across the food and drinks supply chain, and especially in manufacturing, transport, bulk storage and retail. Although most of the cooling is used in refrigerators, freezers and cold stores, refrigeration is also commonly used for cooling and heating in air conditioning systems according to Carbon Trust. In Europe, it is estimated that approximately 75 % of all industrial refrigeration capacity is installed in the food industry, equating to around 60-70 million cubic metres of cold storage for food. Cooling is among the most energy-intensive processes in the sector with up to 60% of a manufacturer’s electricity used in refrigeration, as it is shown in the figure below, and up to 70% of the energy cost accounted for by refrigeration according to the following table.

 

Industry sector

Energy costs accounted for by refrigeration

Meat, poultry and fish processing

50%

Ice cream manufacturing

70%

Cold storage

90%

Food supermarkets

50%

Small shops with refrigerated cabinets

70% or over

Pubs and clubs

30%

Therefore, any improvements to equipment, facilities, management of refrigeration and freezing would substantially enhance the industry’s environmental performance. For instance, approximately 25% and 40% of energy savings can be achieved only from optimising the refrigeration in the grocery supply chain.

This best practice suggests measures that improve the existing refrigeration and freezing equipment and procedures by for instance, inter alia, selecting the temperature based on the needs of the products that are refrigerated or frozen, or precooling of hot/warm products before placing them into the cooling equipment. Analogous measures and/or procedures can be applied when freezing and refrigeration equipment is upgraded or new facilities are designed and built. For instance, it is best practice to switch from hydrofluorocarbons to natural refrigerants or to agree a multi-year 'leak-free warranty' with the equipment supplier. 

The measures of this best practice are broadly applicable to all food and beverage manufacturers. Some limitations to the implementation of each of the measures listed above may arise from specific process or product requirements.

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