Is your facility ready to operate with less CO₂?

Posted in: Food & Beverage

refrigeration system

An emerging shortage of carbon dioxide (CO₂) caused by the COVID-19 virus is affecting the nation’s Food and Beverage industry. CO₂ is widely used in food processing for freezing, packaging, preservation, shipping and the carbonation of beverages.

So, What is Causing The Shortage?

Lower global demand for goods has caused many manufacturing facilities to idle. Because CO₂ is derived primarily as a by-product of other manufacturing processes, the reduction in manufacturing has led to a decrease in access to suppliers creating food grade CO₂. The ethanol industry, which produces the majority of excess CO₂, has been hit hard due to restricted travel. CO₂ suppliers have already begun rationing supplies.

According to a letter sent to Vice President Pence from the Compressed Gas Association, and backed by several food industry organizations, preliminary data has shown production has been cut by more than 20%, and CO₂ levels are expected to fall below 50% of pre-COVID levels. This could result in limited supply for manufacturers, which will ultimately result in price escalation as well as a reduction in production rates.

Considering a Closed Loop System

If your CO₂ is used to directly chill and/or freeze food, it may be time to consider replacing your direct contact refrigeration system with a closed loop refrigeration system. Closed loop refrigeration systems have been operating for over 100 years using natural, non-ozone depleting refrigerants. The closed loop system does not consume the refrigerant! Instead, the refrigerant is contained in a piping system that connects compressors, condensers and evaporators together to chill air, which is then blown over the food product. In the food industry, these systems are connected to -40°F blast freezers, Individual Quick Freezing (IQF) tunnels and blast coolers. They are also widely used for frozen and refrigerated warehouses.

While the closed loop system is often not considered due to higher upfront costs, most moderate to large food producers use closed loop systems due to the low operational costs. Often gas suppliers will provide the equipment for minimal upfront costs and recover their investment through gas consumption costs. We have worked with clients to replace direct chill systems with closed loop natural refrigerant systems and found the return on investment can be as short as a 3-year payback.

As the CO₂ market becomes more dire due to the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it becomes increasingly important to take control of your refrigeration costs. Ultimately, our goal is to help you keep producing the products our communities rely on.

Ryan Schuetz

About the Author

Ryan Schuetz is an engineering department manager serving the Food and Beverage sector out of Mead & Hunt’s Fenton, MO office. His extensive experience and skillset allow him to provide Food and Beverage clients with innovation solutions to tough challenges. When not at work, Ryan continues his work in the “beverage” industry as a homebrewer.

Read more posts by Ryan Schuetz

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