Large potential for NatRef heat pumps in Australian food industry

A recently published report has identified key market opportunities for high-temperature natural refrigerant-based heat pumps in Australia’s food manufacturing sector.

The Australian Outback.

With rapidly rising natural gas prices, a fast growing food processing industry, and the coming HFC phase-down, there is a very large opportunity for high-temperature heat pumps in Australia – including natural refrigerant-based systems – a recent report has found.

The report, titled ‘High Temperature Heat Pumps for the Australian Food Industry: Opportunities Assessment’, was published by the Australian Alliance for Energy Productivity and is part of an initiative by the non-profit group to double the energy productivity of Australia’s economy by 2030.

Rising gas prices

The report identified several key market drivers that are creating opportunities for NatRef heat pumps in the Australian food-manufacturing sector, the most significant being the rapidly increasing price of gas prices in Australia.

“This work is particularly important at a time when East Coast Australian companies have seen a rapid escalation of gas prices in the last two years, with many companies seeing contract prices double,” the report states.

Citing key high temperature industrial heat pump technology developments over the past decade, the report highlights packaged CO2 heat pumps like the ‘Eco Cute’ unit popular in Japan among the potential alternatives.

“While there is a significant capital cost for high temperature heat pumps,” the report states, “the development of packaged ‘Eco Cute’ units in Japan provides relatively economical volume manufactured units for heating water and air to 90°C”.

“Improving technologies and economies of scale of production of packaged units are making heat pumps more competitive, supported by declining costs of renewable electricity (and energy storage) and increasing costs of natural gas,” the report states.

Improving technologies and economies of scale of production of packaged units are making heat pumps more competitive.
– Australian Alliance for Energy Productivity

NatRef case studies for Australia food sector

The report details several NatRef heat pump case studies in Australia. Examples include:

  • Mayekawa Plus+ Heat ammonia heat pump, installed in 2012 at Thomas Foods International’s Lobethal Abattoir in Adelaide resulted in a 40% reduction in liquified petroleum gas costs.
  • One 30kW Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Q-ton CO2 air-to-water heat pump was installed at Shene Estate Distillery in Tasmania in mid-2017. The Q-ton unit has achieved a COP of 4.2.

With Australia set to phase down HFCs beginning January 2018 and committed to reducing carbon emissions at national level, the report represents a clear opportunity for natural refrigerant heat pump technology to serve the market.

"The project team believes that there is sufficient potential for application of high temperature heat pumps to displace natural gas and deliver an attractive return for the Australian food industry [and] that further work is justified to develop the market,” the report concluded.

“This may include part-funding the conduct of detailed feasibility studies and case implementation projects, to demonstrate the application in applications where there is substantial replication potential."

By Devin Yoshimoto

Nov 30, 2017, 12:35




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