In late November Accelerate Europe took a tour of the Delhaize Group’s newly refurbished Chazal store in Schaerbeek, Brussels. Georgios Patkos, former Director of the Technical Department for the Brussels-based Delhaize Group, offered his technical insights, with his successor David Schalenbourg on hand to highlight the company’s sustainable future.

Schalenbourg notes that in Belgium alone, reducing energy consumption and refrigerant leaks – and retrofitting equipment with low-GWP refrigerants like CO2 – have already led to a 38% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (using 2008 as a baseline).

To communicate its sustainability initiatives to customers, suppliers and other stakeholders, the Group publishes progress on its targets annually and attends events like shecco’s ATMOsphere series to promote natural refrigerants. The company also engages with the Consumer Goods Forum’s Refrigeration Working Group to discuss how to lower the climate impact of refrigeration systems.

Delhaize does not disclose specific targets on how many natural refrigerant systems it aims to install in the future. The simple message, though, is: the more the better.

“We don’t have specific targets for number of stores with CO2 refrigeration,” Schalenbourg says. “In Belgium, we plan to have three to four installations yearly. Currently, outside Belgium, we have 12 hybrid CO2 systems operating in Greece, 770 plug-ins with R290 in Romania, and two CO2 transcritical systems in the US with one more planned.”

Central to the Chazal store’s ten-month refurbishment was the installation of Carrier’s CO2OLtec transcritical CO2 booster refrigeration system, which has been running since July 2015, replacing an HFC system. The Carrier system includes:

  • 3 low-temperature and 4 medium-temperature compressors (cooling capacity 200kW);
  • Reclaimed heat used for hot water, which meets the store’s requirements;
  • Doors on all fridges and freezers (except semi-vertical units and those with weighted products)

Searching for ‘refrigerant of the future’

Headquartered in Anderlecht, Brussels, Belgium, the Delhaize Group currently operates over 3,400 stores across seven countries. The Group’s primary operations are in Belgium via numerous formats, including convenience store chain Proxy Delhaize. The Group also has a presence in Luxembourg, Greece, Romania, Serbia, Indonesia and the US (operating Food Lion and Hannaford stores as Delhaize America).

In 2006 the company commenced the search for a new environmentally friendly refrigerant, a three-year process that included consideration of impending f-gas regulations and finished with CO2 transcritical technology as the preferred option for new installations.

“In 2006 we were searching for ‘the refrigerant of the future’ and tested a number of different technologies,” says Patkos. “It took us three years before finalising our choice to opt for transcritical CO2 for new installations.

“Today it is still the refrigerant that answers best to all environmental and energy criteria. What is more, the technology and its components are becoming more affordable and the total cost of installations has decreased considerably over the last few years. The implementation of the F-Gas Regulation wasn’t an accelerating element, but rather a confirmation that we took the right options at the right time.”

For existing stores, Schalenbourg says Delhaize’s goal is to retrofit all installations containing harmful hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) R404A and R507, with lower-GWP alternatives like CO2 and hydrocarbons. Using its R404A systems as a comparison, Patkos says data collected typically confirmed a 5% drop in energy consumption a month after conversion to CO2, and a further 6.5% reduction after 10 months.

All of the company’s refrigerated warehouses utilise natural fluids ammonia and CO2, while some of its transport fleet uses Thermo King’s innovative CO2 Cryotech systems to keep food fresh during transportation. An area Delhaize is looking to improve, Patkos says, is its in-store bottle coolers, few of which operate with natural refrigerants. “A tender is running for cooling equipment with a special attention to plug-ins functioning with natural refrigerants,” he adds.

US and global reach

Delhaize (through its Food Lion and Hannaford stores) is among a number of companies in the US testing transcritical CO2 systems, including Kroger, Ahold USA, Aldi and Whole Food Markets. What’s more, for the first time, Food Lion is this year testing a transcritical CO2 system in a high ambient climate (Southport, North Carolina).

For a global company, putting transcritical CO2 technology to the test in warm temperatures is vital, says Schalenbourg. “Warm temperatures may pose a challenge for CO2 installations, but that idea is being tested.”

The company is actively engaged with the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star programme to manage energy efficiency across its US facilities, but Patkos admits the challenge is very different in other regions the company services, such as Greece, Serbia, Romania and Indonesia.

“We do take different approaches in our different countries, tailored to local regulations, availability of equipment, and availability of contractors,” Patkos says.

This article is based on a longer version produced by James Ranson for the Winter 2015 edition of Accelerate Europe. To read the full article, click here.

Author r744