Hiber reaping CO2 transcritical dividends

By Pilar Aleu, Nov 25, 2015, 10:54 4 minute reading

At Supermercados Hiber, energy efficiency and environment are key players in the company’s decisions. In 2012, Hiber had the first store in Spain using only CO2 as refrigerant and in 2014 made history with the first Spanish urban CO2 transcritical store.

Since its foundation 36 years ago, Supermercados Hiber has grown considerably and today boasts 26 stores in Madrid. Gabriel Ruiz, Hiber General Manager, gave R744.com some insights about the company and their current and future projects with CO2.

“For our business, the area of refrigeration is extremely important as almost 50% of the store is dedicated to fresh products. This results in two things: each Hiber store requires an important amount of investment; and our energy consumption is high,” Ruiz began.

With the continued rise in energy bills in Spain, there was no other option for Hiber than to implement energy saving measures. “LED became very popular. However, this was not enough for us and we decided to go further and look into solutions to reduce our energy consumption in our refrigeration equipment.”

CO2 profitability: 30% energy savings and payback period of three years

Some of the Hiber stores have represented a major benchmark in CO2 refrigeration in Spain. In 2011, the supermarket opened its fist store equipped with Carrier’s HybridCO2OL system, a cascade system designed for stores using CO2 in higher ambient temperatures. Looking at the investment return of the installation and energy savings achieved (around 30% compared to a traditional system), Hiber decided to choose CO2 as the baseline refrigerant and equip more stores with this technology.

CO2-based technology results are very attractive in installations such as at supermarkets, where the payback period is relatively gradual and equipment has a long life expectancy.” Ruiz continued. “It is true that costs related to installation and commissioning are higher. However, it allows for about 30% energy savings compared to traditional systems plus the return of investment is also quick (three years).”

After the first installation, Ruiz visited stores in Switzerland and Germany to contrast the performance of the systems and their potential problems at different locations. Also in 2011, the company equipped two additional stores with CO2 cascade systems.

Despite some concerns about the level of efficiency and performance of CO2 systems in high temperatures, Hiber was committed to the technology.

Hiber’s CO2 stores
  • 3 stores using Carrier HybridCO2OL systems (including the first in 2011)
  • First CO2 transcritical installation in Spain (2012)
  • First CO2 transcritical installation in an urban location (2014)
  • Hiber has 36 stores in total

In 2012, the supermarket equipped a 2000m2 store with a CO2 transcritical (TC) system, the first of its kind in Spain. Two years later, Hiber had the first Spanish urban store with CO2 TC technology.

These installations have significant energy savings. Just to give you a real example: at a 1000m2 sales area using hydrofluorocarbon R404, your energy bills go over €7000. If you replace this with a TC system, you end up paying less than €5000 per month. Now take this number and consider a life cycle of 10 or 15 years, the savings are great and we don't even have to think about the tax or failures in the system.”

While the difference between a traditional and a hybrid system is huge in terms of energy cost reductions, the disparity is much smaller between hybrid and a TC system, as the subcritical systems’ performance is boosted by the use of CO2. “However, our experience has showed us that there is still an improvement, about an additional 10%.” said Ruiz.

Another advantage of CO2 TC in urban stores is that the emission of refrigeration in the air is lower and this helps to get necessary licensing, which are less complicated to obtain. “If a central installation with three big compressors measures 60,000m3, with a TC system this is reduced to around 40,000 m3, meaning around 30% less,” highlighted Ruiz.

“Our five installations speak for themselves: CO2 is the way to go”

“We are very happy with the results so far,” Ruiz beams. “We haven’t had any problems with any of our installations. In Spain this summer was very hot and I heard other supermarkets found some problems. In our case, everything went smoothly.”

In summer, the company added external refrigeration units to their TC systems to maintain the same levels of efficiency. “Despite this fact, if 10 months are efficient and two months are less efficient, on average the technology is still completely worthy.”

The Spanish f-gas tax has also helped drive the increase in uptake for CO2 technology.

“However, I think the biggest incentive is that your energy consumption is lower and therefore you save on energy bills. In my opinion, the tax mainly aims to collect money from various parts of the chain and penalise existing installations that cannot necessarily afford a new system.”

The future looks promising at Hiber as all of its new stores will be equipped with CO2 technology. “The company will at least consider cascade systems but will try to go for transcritical systems wherever possible.” Ruiz concluded.


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By Pilar Aleu

Nov 25, 2015, 10:54




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