Colruyt progressing towards 100% hydrocarbons

Natural refrigerants are helping the Colruyt Group to save money and deliver its environmental targets, with the Belgian retailer moving to hydrocarbons for 100% of its in-store cooling needs. Accelerate Corporate reports ahead of ATMOsphere Europe in Berlin. Propane system in Bio-Planet store, Mons, Belgium Natural refrigerants are helping the Colruyt Group to save money and deliver its environmental targets, with the Belgian retailer moving to hydrocarbons for 100% of its in-store cooling needs. Accelerate Corporate reports ahead of ATMOsphere Europe in Berlin. Founded in 1925, the Colruyt Group – headquartered in the town of Halle near Brussels – is one of Belgium’s biggest retailers, with annual revenue of over €9.1 billion. Employing over 29,000 staff, it boasts 516 shops. Three shop formats in Belgium have product cooling: Colruyt supermarkets (237), OKay convenience stores (120) and Bio-Planet (19) organic stores (autumn 2016 figures). With the Colruyt Group having already switched to electricity from 100% renewable sources, refrigeration now makes a proportionally larger contribution to its carbon footprint. Choosing the right refrigerant, therefore, is crucial for meeting its sustainability targets. The Colruyt Group’s ultimate goal is to become HFC-free. In 2012, it launched a feasibility study. This led to the adoption in December 2014 of the official target of using 100% natural refrigerants for all its cooling needs. Since the end of 2016, Colruyt is no longer building HFC cooling systems in its stores. Regulation: An ‘extra stimulus’ for NatRefs Natural refrigerants like CO2, hydrocarbons and ammonia will have a key role to play in the HFC phase-down taking place under the EU’s F-Gas Regulation, which since 2015 has been reducing the total amount of HFCs that can be sold in Europe. “We were already adopting natural refrigerants before the EU F-Gas Regulation came into force. The F-Gas Regulation was not the primary driver, but it does give us an extra stimulus,” Collin Bootsveld, a project engineer at the Colruyt Group, told Accelerate Corporate. After considering which natural refrigerant would best match their needs, Bootsveld and his team opted for propane (R290) for in-store cooling. “It’s not that we think CO2 is bad. After an honest evaluation, we think propane is the best solution for us,” Bootsveld says. At the system blueprint’s heart are compact chillers containing less than 2.5 kg of propane or propene. With a refrigeration capacity of 30-50 kW, one chiller can cool the Group’s smaller OKay (convenience) and Bio-Planet stores. Colruyt supermarkets need to run two compact chillers. An extra chiller is always added redundantly, ready to step in should one chiller fail. Colruyt’s chest freezers, meanwhile, have been using the natural refrigerant R600a (isobutane) for over 10 years. They are stand-alone, giving store managers flexibility regarding layout. All new Colruyt Group cooling installations have used natural refrigerants from 2017 onwards. Currently there are around 50 new refrigeration systems in the pipeline, a mix of new shops and refits of existing stores. So when will the Group achieve the target of using hydrocarbons for 100% of its in-store cooling needs? “At the current pace we will be ready in 2027,” says Bootsveld. The full version of this story appears in ‘Hydrocarbons – A New World Order’, the special edition of Accelerate Corporate. Hear more from the Colruyt Group at the ATMOsphere Europe conference, taking place in Berlin next week (25-27 September). Source: hydrocarbons21.com
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