Innovation is born when a successful solution from one industry is applied to similar needs in other industries.
One example of cross-industry innovation is cooling supplier Frigel’s entry into beverage markets with its highly engineered systems, long applied in plastics extrusion and injection. These systems, the company said recently, perform precise beverage cooling that allows zero contaminants. Possible applications include wort and yeast cooling, fermentation, maturation, syrup cooling, carbonation, pasteurization and cooling tunnels.
"An engineering approach means it’s more than refrigeration equipment," said Daniel Garcia, regional director. Frigel’s modular approach to the engineering of cooling systems, he said, eliminates the need for open cooling towers and centralized chillers that use ammonia.
The Italian-based company with North American headquarters near Chicago introduced its technologies to beverage markets at Process Expo 2015.
In a beverage plant, a single cooling system may serve a variety of processes, according to Garcia. The benefits of addressing these different process loads individually include energy savings, reduced maintenance and less chemical use.
"A centralized chiller in a beverage plant must run at the coolest temperature needed overall. If one application needs 60°F water, the whole house ends up having 60°F water at its disposal," said Garcia.
Echoes of the past
A traditional central chiller system delivers process-cooling water or ammonia refrigerant at the lowest temperature required for any given process within a beverage production or packaging plant. As a result, all process water or refrigerant is cooled to the lowest temperature required and routed to other processes, regardless of whether the same temperature is needed elsewhere. It wastes energy to supply coolant at one set point throughout the system and creates flow rate inefficiencies because the centralized system is centered on satisfaction of one among many cooling loads.
Centralized chillers in many plants use ammonia as the refrigerant, and it is poisonous in high concentrations, dictating a host of safety precautions.
Most plants use open cooling towers to provide process-cooling water to the central chiller. Cooling towers use an evaporative process to cool water, making them notorious water wasters. Dirty water can be found in the towers because they are open to the elements. The systems may also suffer from solid deposits, gases, algae, bacteria/Legionella, microbiological growth, scale accumulation on heat exchangers, and oxidation. Preventing or eliminating these threats lead to intensive maintenance and chemical treatment.
Intelligent process cooling differs from traditional methods in how it satisfies individual cooling loads. It also uses a closed-loop system to supply water to chillers rather than using open cooling towers.
In addition, a centralized chiller can take better advantage of free cooling — or using ambient temperatures as a source of inexpensive cooling — than other type systems. Having a central cooler housed outside a facility can reduce water temperatures from 200°F to 90°F prior to chiller use. This eliminates the expense and safety risks with the ammonia found in some centralized chillers, as well as that of Legionnaire’s disease fostered in evaporative cooling towers.
One system primary component as applied to beverage production is a central adiabatic cooler that is housed outside a beverage facility to serve as the primary component of the integrated, closed-loop system that delivers clean water at the right temperature to industrial processes year round. The cooler uses heat exchangers and a patented adiabatic chamber to cool water circulated to it from chillers positioned near each process cooling point with a plant.
Adiabatic cooling is the process of reducing heat through a change in air pressure caused by volume expansion. In other words, it occurs without transfer of heat or matter between a thermodynamic system and its surroundings. Instead, adiabatic cooling is seen when the pressure applied on a parcel of air is reduced, and the air in the parcel is allowed to expand.
As the volume increases, the temperature falls as its internal energy increases. Data centers and other facilities make wide use of free cooling. Changes in air pressure and temperature cause adiabatic clouds over mountain ranges.
Other system primary components that can be applied to beverage production include water-cooled or air-cooled chillers that are monitored and optimized for energy efficiency. The chillers are located within the plant in close proximity to each beverage production or packaging process.
The controller ensures optimum performance based on a range of operating parameters. Extended functionality includes using real-time data to enhance performance. Troubleshooting combined with remote access speeds issue resolution and cuts maintenance downtime.
Better control of cooling based on the requirements and flow rates of each individual process increases efficiencies. They are also improved by delivering cooling water through a series of stages instead of having equipment sized to supply coolant based on that single process having the lowest temperature requirement.
As a closed-loop system, it saves cooling water when compared to open cooling towers because it recirculates water continuously. Using the same clean water continuously minimizes maintenance issues and eliminates costs associated with water disposal and treatment.
With free cooling and the suitable ambient conditions, no chiller use is needed. Instead, the system shuts down the chillers to capitalize on the free cooling available.
Frigel claims these technologies can save companies as much as 30 percent on energy consumption; lower water consumption by as much 95 percent; reduce chemical use by 50 percent; lower maintenance by as much as 40 hours per month; and eliminate the expense and safety risk mitigation associated with ammonia.
Beverage cooling applications that require zero contaminants and precise temperature control include wort and yeast cooling, fermentation, maturation, syrup cooling, carbonation, and pasteurization cooling tunnels.
The need for efficiencies, sustainability and safety drove Frigel to enter food and beverage industries. It currently has beta sites in operation with four beverage companies on four continents.
The "adiabatic" cooling technology on its central cooler, combined with chillers that use non-toxic gas, is more efficient than conventional, centralized chillers that use ammonia. The system works well with any operation requiring water cooling at temperatures of 85ºF or higher.
Kevin Parker is editor in chief of Processing. Frigel has served the intelligent process cooling market since the 1960s. Its global headquarters is near Florence, Italy, and its North American headquarters is in East Dundee, Illinois. The company’s solutions are found in applications at more than 5,500 locations.