Based in Tepeji del Río, the new distribution centre uses a NH3/CO2 cascade system modeled on two of the company’s other plants, located in Toluca and Monterrey.

Frialsa, an industry leader in the storage and distribution of chilled and frozen products, has 22 distribution centres across Mexico, 14 of which are equipped with systems using natural refrigerants.

In 2010, the company opened its first distribution centre equipped with a NH3/CO2 cascade system in Toluca, near Mexico City. The company’s corporate engineer Ricardo García gave a sneak peak on the success of the installation and the company’s future strategy regarding projects using natural refrigerants.

NH3/ CO2 systems achieving greater energy efficiency

Ammonia had been the company’s refrigerant of choice due to its low cost and high efficiency in industrial applications.

However, one of the main advantages of using a NH3/ CO2 cascade system rather than a pure ammonia-based system is its improved performance, especially in low temperatures and when the quantity of chilled products required is big.

After opening plants with the technology in Toluca and Monterrey, the company has now completed a hat-trick of NH3/CO2 facilities, with the Tepeji plant the biggest controlled temperature distribution centre in Mexico and Latin America.

It has a capacity of 351,000 m3 with freezing and refrigeration temperatures of -25°C and 3°C respectively.

García said that ensuring safety played a part in the decision to move to NH3/CO2 systems.

“Safety plays an important role at Frialsa” he said. “We always want to minimise risks related with ammonia leaks and; therefore, preventing any personnel or food contamination.”

Using a cascade system, we have been able to reduce the ammonia charge from 15,000kg to 1,500kg. The role of CO2 in the cascade system accounts for the heavily reduced ammonia charge and can also be used inside the cold room while ammonia is employed in an outdoor machinery room so employees don’t have contact with it.”

Frialsa invested $20 million in its Tepeji facility.

“Investments depend on the size and freezing capacity of the system,” García says. “Our technology required a higher investment than a traditional system.”

However, we look at energy efficiency improvements and how to reduce our energy consumption in the long term. You can buy a more economic system but you will end up spending more in energy bills,” García noted.”

Lack of specialised CO2 component manufacturers and suppliers the main challenge

Finding tailor-made components for CO2 systems remains a challenge in Mexico, says García. The latest project in Tepeji del Río engaged companies from Europe (Sabroe, which provided the CO2 compressors) and the U.S. (M&M was responsible for developing the refrigeration system).

“Having suppliers based outside Mexico makes inventory management more difficult,” García added.

Huge potential for the refrigeration market in Mexico

Mexico has adopted regulations to ban R-12 and phase out the use of R-22 until 2020.

Although, the country is making only steady progress to phase out other HFCs gases, García remains confident for the future.

“In Mexico, the use of refrigerants will significantly grow within the next five years as the population is increasing and frozen food becomes more and more popular.”

Lack of specialised CO2 component manufacturers and suppliers the main challenge

Frialsa is member of the Global Cold Chain Alliance (GCCA) and attends congresses around the world to keep up to date on new technologies that promote energy efficiency and savings.



Author Pilar Aleu