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How companies can get rid of their biggest water waster

Mar 30, 2018
How companies can get rid of their biggest water waster

Refrigeration is an invaluable part of almost every business in the food and beverage industry, and the resources required to effectively operate and maintain these systems are significant. According to Dawie Kriel, Head of EP HVAC&R, part of Energy Partners, conventional refrigeration systems are often the biggest users of water in industrial and commercial applications.

He states that the ongoing drought and severe water restrictions in parts of the country, have made businesses painfully aware of the amount of water they require on a daily basis. “This has already affected many businesses in South Africa, making the need to save water even more crucial. Many companies in the food and beverage industry make use of evaporative condensing in their refrigeration systems, since they are still the most energy efficient. These systems also consume massive amounts of water, and some cases that we have consulted on so far have used an average of around 30 000 liters of water per day.”

Kriel conservatively estimates that this could amount to around 9 million liters of water being used every day for refrigeration in the Western Cape alone. “The fact is that the same results can be achieved with as much as 75% less water if businesses adapted to new technology to replace regular evaporative cooling systems.”

Adiabatic systems offer a solution

The alternative to the tried and trusted evaporative condensing systems, is what is known as adiabatic assisted or hybrid condensing. “The basic principle behind evaporative condensing is that water vapor is passed directly over pipes containing refrigerant. This requires relatively little electricity and a constant supply of fresh water. Adiabatic is somewhat more complex. The refrigerant, in a finned dry heat exchanger, is condensed by air which has been pre-cooled through the evaporative process. To save water, the adiabatic cooling of the air is only started once the air temperature reaches a pre-determined setpoint. In total, this could reduce water use to around 25% of the water that an evaporative system requires,” Kriel explains.

Critically, adiabatic systems will continue to make operation of the plant possible when there is no water at all be it at a somewhat reduced capacity.  In the case of evaporative condensers, a complete loss of water supply will result in the plant stopping almost immediately.

“We have already seen businesses come under massive strain as water restrictions are forcing them to scale down some of their operations. Being able to get ahead of this trend could mean the difference between success and failure for affected enterprises,” 

Funding an adiabatic refrigeration system

Kriel explains that EP HVAC&R has spearheaded a business model that allows companies to pay for refrigeration as a utility without owning the system. “Basically, we install, manage and own the refrigeration system on site, while the client only pays for the amount of refrigeration that they use, at an agreed-upon Rand-per-kilowatt-hours-refrigeration (R/kWhR) rate. At the moment we are one of the only service providers in the country to offer this.”

Alternatively, EP HVAC&R is also able to offer its clients lease agreements.

Industry applications

Kriel points out that businesses are gradually moving towards this way of thinking. “We have received interest from a number of large players in the food industry who want to reduce their water footprint as part of a larger green strategy.”

“With the pressure on resources increasing every year, and businesses becoming increasingly aware of their part in becoming more responsible, systems such as these are set to become one of the food and beverage industry’s best solutions in the pursuit of sustainability,” concludes Kriel.