Using Hydrocarbon Refrigerants
September 2000 -
Unilever is pledging to step up its move to more environmentally
friendly refrigerants for its freezer cabinets once a pilot scheme
launched at the Olympics in Sydney Australia to demonstrate the
safety and efficiency of the equipment, is successfully completed.
It has already started replacing freezers - currently
numbering more than two million worldwide - with equipment using
hydrocarbon (HC) refrigerants but plans to accelerate the programme
on completion of the trials in February next year as freezers are
renewed in line with the company's replacement policy.
The switch to HC will be progressive and dependent
on national legislation, but by year 2005 Unilever's purchasing
policy for ice cream freezers will be to discontinue the use of
HFC* refrigerants, where commercially viable alternatives, such
as HC, can be legally used. Hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) are powerful
greenhouse gases and are among those materials covered by the Kyoto
protocol on climate change.
Bob Smith, Unilever's ice cream technical director:
"Since the early 90s we have steadily shifted our freezers
from ozone-depleting materials. HC refrigerants, widely used in
domestic refrigerators in Europe, are currently the most promising
alternative to HFC. The challenge has been to adopt HC for the very
low temperatures needed for commercial ice cream freezers. Unilever
already requires its freezer manufacturers to use HC for insulation
foam wherever this is permitted under local regulations.
"For the past three years we have been working
with others to develop and refine equipment capable of using HC
as the coolant in commercial settings. But this is an evolutionary
process and in time we may well find that alternative technologies
can offer us even better solutions that allow us to minimise energy
use and the emission of gasses with climate change potential."
The Olympic trials will put 50 specially developed
production-line freezers to the sternest of tests, operating at
-20°C in demanding conditions. They will be monitored by Unilever's
Australian ice cream business, Streets, which will then transfer
the freezers into the domestic market around Sydney. In February
2001, a decision on the roll-out of the technology initially across
Australia will be taken.
"These trials will also examine the energy usage
which accounts for most of the global warming impact of an ice cream
freezer cabinet," said Mr Smith. "From the experience
gained in the Australian market we will work with an increased number
of refrigeration suppliers to meet the accelerated demand for replacement
freezers using more environmentally sound technology from 2005."