“Cool” investment by Eastland Port commissions New Zealand’s largest critically charged hydrocarbon refrigeration system.

Auckland, NZ (August 19, 2019) – Eastland Ports newest development is working to tackle climate change through investment in sustainable cooling systems. The Port is working with specialists EcoChill on a future proof cooling solution for an up and coming cold store conversion. This includes the design, build and installation of what will be New Zealand’s largest critically charged hydrocarbon refrigeration system delivering over 1 Megawatt of cooling power.

The system will provide cooling across two cool stores that are being created from the conversion of an existing cold store that is being retired at the Port’s Kaiti Beach Rd Site in Gisborne. The store will be set up to handle nearly 3.5 million kilograms of kiwifruit annually. Site preparation is currently underway and includes the installation of PIR panel to make good the old store and provide multiple rooms within the existing structure. Hand over is planned for the end of February 2020.

The system, thought to be the largest of its type in New Zealand, includes purpose built EcoChill engineered plant, designed with both a primary and secondary refrigerant, using critically charged hydrocarbon packaged chiller units. This approach has decreased the amount of refrigerant required to as little as ten percent of what would normally be used. The system will have a combined charge of 112kg across 8 circuits.

In choosing refrigerants the lower the Global Warming Potential (GWP), the lower the climate impact and Eastland Ports has made the choice to use hydrocarbon, a natural refrigerant with a GWP of just 2, versus synthetic Hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) alternatives that can be as high as 3,922.

The use of a natural refrigerant will support the Port in its environmental impact goals and help future proof the system. Refrigerant choice will become an increasing issue for businesses with the 1 January 2020 implementation of the HFC phase down in New Zealand.

As importers of refrigerants, global HFC phase down commitments have already had an impact on New Zealand, alongside increases in the price of the New Zealand Carbon Unit, with the cost of synthetic refrigerants increasing six-fold in the last year. Supply of some synthetic refrigerants has already decreased, and notice has been given by overseas manufacturers of some refrigerants being withdrawn from the market all together.

“It is a concern that many New Zealand businesses, particularly those that rely on refrigeration, are not aware of the cost and supply risks that exist with the changes occurring in the refrigeration industry”, says Matthew Darby, Founder and Managing Director of EcoChill.

“Part of the challenge is the lack of knowledge within the heating and cooling industry itself in using natural refrigerants, particularly carbon dioxide and hydrocarbons, “says Mr. Darby. “With the phase down and phase out of traditional synthetic refrigerants for refrigerants that have low climate impacts, the unique properties of these refrigerants require specific design and management, including health and safety. What many companies are surprised to learn is that the future for new refrigerants in New Zealand is flammable.”

Steve Miller, National Technical Sales Manager at EcoChill has seen the impact of ongoing technology developments in natural refrigerant systems.

“Decreasing the amount of refrigerant is just one benefit of new developments as businesses look to use less resources, decrease environmental and operating costs and improve safety. Historically there’s been the perception there is a trade-off between environmental outcomes and performance, but we have repeatedly shown this is not the case. In fact, more efficient systems and higher performance than traditional systems are now a given.”

The high degrees of temperature and humidity control delivered with the new system also allow for greater flexibility of the refrigerated space for storage of other seasonal fruit, vegetables and goods as needed, something that historically has been difficult to accomplish.

“It’s no longer just a case of building a box and making it cold,’’ says Mr Darby. “Refrigeration is critical infrastructure and cooling has become increasingly sophisticated in its ability to support growers and distributors to deliver higher quality fruit and vegetables with higher orchard to plate yields.”

The critical nature of achieving sustainability goals has also been recognised with EcoChill being awarded a long-term service contract.

“The best refrigerant is one that stays in the system,’ says Mr Darby. “Eastland has committed to ensuring the refrigerated site is optimally maintained, saving on operating costs and protecting the environment through proper system management and monitoring. These strategies are equally important in creating a sustainable refrigeration strategy.”

This is not the first “first” for EcoChill in delivering natural refrigerant “cooltech” into New Zealand.

“This is a first in terms of the largest cooling power for HC systems, but we have also delivered firsts in New Zealand in the areas of parallel compression, sub-critical and trans-critical CO2 systems and water-loop cooling technology,” says Mr Darby.

“I am incredibly proud of the work our team does, in designing sustainable cooling solutions that support businesses like Eastland Port on their zero-emissions journey.”