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What would a cold store break down mean to you?

01 May 2017

If a distribution centre cold/chilled store breaks down it can cause significant problems. Chris Smith offers advice on averting a cooling crisis. 

Cold/chilled stores are mission critical and it is important to always give these facilities due consideration. A lack of adequate cold storage capacity can also limit business growth potential.

To prevent an incident from disrupting your business, it pays to know your options in advance so you are able to recover faster and don’t have to learn how to handle the problem during the crisis itself.

Spend time with your refrigeration contractor or a rental company to walk your site and talk through the options – there may be more than you think!  In many instances businesses will benefit from putting in place a formal contingency plan, which lays out the technical requirements, equipment, logistics and contractors needed in the event of an emergency.

Rental cooling and chilling equipment is one way to keep a refrigerated warehouse operating after an equipment failure, or when plant needs to go offline for a maintenance overhaul.

Rental companies can supply equipment to match the kilowatt duty being taken off-line. Aggreko, for example, has specialist chillers that can reach temperatures as low as -45°C to ensure that the refrigerated food remains within the required temperature boundaries.
Low-temperature air handling units can be placed into the cold store, running temporary hoses and pipework from the chillers to supply the required cooling for as long as it is needed.  

It typically takes a couple of hours from emergency call-out to site visit. A technical site survey is undertaken and the most appropriate solution is specified. Installing temporary equipment and getting it up and running can usually be achieved within two to three days. 

However, when working with customers who already have a contingency plan in place this process can be much quicker. Any necessary modifications to pipework or tie-in points to their system will already have been undertaken, preventing delays at such a critical time.

The alternatives
The only viable alternative to renting cooling equipment is to find another warehouse already set up with refrigeration equipment, and then transport stock to it in trucks – a time-consuming option that is costly to arrange. Temporary cooling can be installed at around one-fifth of the cost of doing this. For example, when the cold store in a distribution centre began to rise above its required temperature, Aggreko was asked to find a rapid temporary solution to prevent spoilage of the stored food stock.

Working with the customer's refrigeration and facilities management company, Aggreko identified that the fan coil units inside the cold store were freezing up due to under-performing evaporators and moisture and warm air ingress. This was resulting in reduced cooling capacity and causing the temperature in the cold store to rise. A temperature control team surveyed the site within four hours of the enquiry and were able to suggest a quick and cost-effective solution.  

The supplementary 150 kW scheme used 3 x 50 kW low-temperature fluid chillers to reach a consistently low temperature of -19°C. These units fed a total of nine low-temperature air handling units inside the cold store unit. The defrost functionality was programmed to ensure that only one of the nine units defrosted at any one time, ensuring the full kW design capacity. 

The equipment was powered by three diesel generators with a combined output of 500 kVA. Aggreko’s low-temperature air-cooled chillers are able to reach temperatures as low as  -30°C so the system was able to increase the capacity of each air handler, reducing the number of units required inside the cold store. 

Remote monitoring technology observed the equipment round-the-clock to relay critical information, such as pump performance, fuel levels and consumption rates, load monitoring and diagnostic checks. 

The low-temperature cooling package allowed the contractor to individually shutdown elements of the refrigeration plant for repair and maintenance, while the customer was safe in the knowledge that the cold storage unit would remain at a constant temperature.
Chris Smith is head of temperature control for Aggreko.

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