By Anthony Banfield, Technical Manager
In the mid1980s British scientists confirmed the hypothesis put forward in the early 1970s by two atmospheric chemists that the man made synthetic refrigerants called chlorofuorocarbons (CFCs) which were used to cool our refrigerators, air conditioned spaces, automobiles and other refrigerated domestic and commercial appliances and equipment were destroying the ozone layer. The ozone layer is a layer of gas in the atmosphere that prevents ultraviolet radiation harmful to life from reaching the planet’s surface.
In order to arrest and try to reverse the loss of the ozone layer an international treaty was designed in 1987 called the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone layer. This environmental multilateral agreement was entered into force in 1989, and it set forth a timetable by country for the reduction in use and eventual band of production of substances believed to contribute to the destruction of the ozone layer.
With CFCs becoming scarce in Trinidad and Tobago around the early 2000s Flavorite Foods Ltd (FFL) had to seek alternative refrigerants for use in its point of sales ice cream freezers in the market place. The popular and most talked about alternative refrigerants at that time were hydrochlorofluorocarbos (HCFCs) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). Changing over a CFC refrigeration system to use either of these two alternatives is not a simple straight forward conversion; it requires replacing certain components in the system and also the lubricant used, it is time consuming and costly.
Also to be taken into consideration was the environmental and climate impact of these alternative refrigerants. CFCs which were being phased out, in addition to contributing to the destruction of the ozone layer is also a potent greenhouse gas, meaning it causes global warming. In consideration of the other two alternatives HCFCs will continue to destroy the ozone layer although to a lesser extent than CFCs and both HCFCs and HFCs are potent global warming gases.
Another alternative refrigerant was also available, the use of a hydrocarbon (HC) refrigerants . At that time this refrigerant was not being used in Canada nor the United States but was being widely used especially in domestic refrigerators in Europe and Australia. Hydrocarbon refrigerants are natural refrigerants derived from petroleum refining operations. They include propane, iso-butane and blends of other hydrocarbon gases. These refrigerants do not cause ozone depletion and have a negligible effect on global warming. Also changing over a refrigeration system that initially used a CFC refrigerant to use a hydrocarbon refrigerant designed to replace that CFC is straight forward requiring only the replacement of the refrigerant, therefore not expensive and using the HC refrigerant requires about 35% to 48% of the initial CFC refrigerant charge. In addition an HC refrigerant system results in the system operating more efficiently and can consume about 10% less electrical energy. The only concern with HC refrigerants is that they are flammable substances. But with proper training given to refrigeration technicians these refrigerants are safe to use and work with.
FFL had a decision to make, (1) switch to the HCFCs which are also ozone depleters and will eventually be phased out under the Montreal Protocol, which will then mean having to replace refrigerant and alter the system again, (2) switch to HFCs which are climate harmful and under scrutiny, or (3) switch to the HCs which are both environmentally and climate friendly natural refrigerants.
FFL took the decision to switch to HC refrigerants directly due to its economic advantage, more efficient operation, lesser electrical energy consumption and also wanting to play its part in contributing positively to the impact on the environment. Maintenance personnel responsible for ice cream freezer repair were given in house training and guidance on the safe handling and use of these refrigerants and the first conversions were done in house in 2007. These conversions allowed our refrigeration technicians to gain experience and confidence working with these flammable refrigerants.
As problems arose with ice cream freezers in the trade that required refrigerant replacement HC refrigerants were used. To date we have about 100 of these HC converted freezers operating in the trade in both Trinidad and Tobago, and we continue to convert when the nature of the problem is such that refrigerant needs to be charged into the system. After an ice cream freezer have been converted it is labelled with the HC refrigerant used for easy identification by our maintenance and servicing team. We have also converted some of our chill storage rooms on the factory compound to utilize the HC refrigerants. And have also purchased new ice cream freezers that use HC refrigerant .
Our manufacturing plant and main finished goods cold storage warehouse use ammonia in the refrigeration system. Ammonia is also a natural refrigerant that is very energy efficient, does not cause ozone depletion and has negligible global warming impact.
Being the largest ice cream manufacturer in the English speaking Caribbean customers and consumers can purchase our wide range of delicious products knowing Flavorite Foods Ltd. is carrying out its operations while being committed to reducing its impact on the environment thereby striving to ensure LIFE IS GOOD.