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An add-on heat pump converts heat emitted by refrigeration equipment into usable energy

A combination of a refrigeration unit and a heat pump re-duces energy requirements – particularly effective for the food and beverage sector.

The challenge in terms of sustainability:

The provision of heat and refrigeration is critical in many operations for the processing of food and beverages: e.g., in dairy processing. Rising energy costs and increasing climate and environment consciousness of the operators and final customers have motivated investors to organize food production – and the associated technical pro-cesses – to increasingly conserve resources and to protect the climate. They expect solutions that leave behind a minimal specific CO2 footprint (CO2 emissions per kg of product).

The initial situation:

Refrigeration and heat provision are generally considered separately. Even in the dairy sector – in which there is a great time overlap of cooling and heating needs for milk and milk products – their supply has until now been technically separate. The focus of efforts was primarily on efficiency enhancement of the separate, individual systems, in which the dairy industry is especially and greatly systematic in its solutions. This isolated viewpoint neglected potentials for savings of energy and costs and for elimination of emissions. The heat of condensation in such refrigeration plants (as a rule, large refrigeration capacities, > 1 MW, are installed) occurs at a low temperature level. It is expelled into the environment, and process heat is produced with the use of fossil fuels.

The solution:

The add-on heat pump is the logical solution from a comprehensive mode of thinking: here, simultaneous provision of refrigeration and heat is considered as an overall process. An add-on heat pump allows utilization of condensation heat from a refrigeration unit at approx. 35 °C, as the heat source of a heat pump. This "hot" source very effectively enables a temperature level of, for example, 80 °C at the output side of a heat pump. Water at this temperature is suitable as hot process water (e.g., for intermediate heating or pasteurization), or is highly effective for room heating and sanitary use. The principle of the add-on heat pump can be basically and effectively applied for all areas of food and beverages where refrigeration and heating are simultaneously required. In the range between 60 and 80 °C, the technically feasible hot-water temperature depends here only on usage requirements: e.g., heating of tanks for margarine production, hot water supply for cleaning in the meat-processing industry, and much more. The user of a refrigeration unit that is simultaneously used for a heat pump enjoys considerable added value. In this add-on solution, the refrigeration and heat-pump components use a common refrigerant cycle in which the hot side of the refrigeration unit is connected to the cold side of the heat pump. This significantly increases the overall efficiency of the refrigeration system and sustainably lowers the CO2 footprint of a product. Application of the heat pump minimizes the requirement for fossil fuels (e.g., gas) for production of heat. Since, thanks to the already available hot source, the supply of heat by the heat pump functions with appreciably less energy consumption than for heat from fossil fuels, CO2 emissions are significantly less (also under consideration of fuel needed for the generation of the required electrical power) – which reduces costs.
Application of the add-on heat pump amortizes itself within a few years. The use of ammonia as refrigerant, in addition, can be used equally for provision of refrigeration and heat, owing to the outstanding material properties (ODP/GWP = 0) and great effi-ciency of ammonia.

The sustainable strengths:

Use of an add-on heat pump can minimize the consumption of fossil fuels for many and various production processes, especially in the food and beverage sector. This saves resources and has a cost-reduction effect. Even if heat is required at a higher temperature than the heat pump can supply, energy consumption for reaching the required temperature is less than for purely conventional solutions with gas boilers. With the design described here, the efficiency of heat supply via the add-on heat pump is considerably higher than heating hot water or steam by fossil fuels. This solution reduces operational expense and eliminates up to 40 % of CO2 emissions (basis of calculations: CO2 emissions with the power mix prevailing currently in Germany). Energy savings cancel out the costs for purchase and installation of add-on heat pumps after only a few years. The combination of one or more refrigeration units with an add-on heat pump is therefore economically attractive. Companies aiming for maximum climate protection can, in addition, use power from regenerative sources to supply cooling and heat, which minimizes CO2 emissions. Producers who in this way organize their production in a more climate-friendly manner can manufacture their products cheaper and satisfy their customers' expectations for resource-saving goods.

The inventors:

GEA Refrigeration Technologies
GEA Refrigeration Technologies, part of the internationally active GEA Group, is a synonym for industrial refrigeration technology. Starting as long ago as the end of the 19th century, it has been our business to cool processes and products and to temperature-control transported goods. You will find our solutions in the food and beverage sectors; in the petrochemical, chemical, and pharmaceutical industries; on fishing ships; in natural gas liquefaction; in infrastructure facilities; and in ice plants. We have likewise gained the best experience for refrigeration in leisure facilities. In fact: refrigeration has been our passion for many decades. As a result, our colleagues are enthusiastically at work in development and production – as well as in the preventive and remedial maintenance of your refrigeration equipment.

Brief profile of the company:

Name: GEA Refrigeration Technologies
Headquarters: Bochum, Germany
Year established: 1896
Employees: 3,147
Solutions: refrigeration components and solutions
Internationality: global