Heineken’s successful rollout of HC coolers- exclusive interview with Maarten ten Houten

By Silvia Scaldaferri, Dec 04, 2013, 10:27 5 minute reading

During ATMOsphere Europe 2013, hydrocarbons21.com caught up with Heineken’s Sustainability Manager, Maarten ten Houten, to discuss the company’s efforts to reduce its carbon footprint by rolling out a GREEN fridge policy, the barriers faced in its introduction of hydrocarbon coolers, and where the market is going.

hydrocarbons21.com: During the Consumer Goods End-User Panel, you spoke about Heineken’s Green Cooling Portfolio – how many GREEN fridges would you say Heineken has installed globally to date?

Maarten ten Houten: We purchase about 130,000 green fridges per year, which have a lifetime of about 6-8 years, so I would estimate that we have an installed base of about 650,000-900.000 coolers, excluding our newly acquired Asia-Pacific business. Due to technical or legal constraints about 63-65% of our coolers worldwide use hydrocarbons (HCs).

hydrocarbons21.com: Do you aim to get to 100% eventually?

MTH: Yes, Heineken purchases only natural refrigerants where it is legally and technically possible. However, in some countries, like Nigeria, it’s not legally allowed. Also, as Red Bull said during ATMOsphere Europe 2013, in the U.S. it is a challenge for some applications like sub-zero coolers. Currently there is a limit of max 150g of HCs allowed.

hydrocarbons21.com: What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced in the implementation of natural refrigerants, such as legislation, cost, and lack of training?

MTH: There are a lot of challenges, but cost is not the biggest. When Heineken started in 2008 the initial cost was 15% higher for our GREEN fridges, but once we started rolling these out, with economies of scale the cost came down. Now hydrocarbon technology is becoming more mainstream, cost is not the biggest problem.

As for legislation this poses a bigger barrier. Heineken complies with all the necessary laws and regulations, so if it’s not legally allowed HCs are not used.

Heineken has decided not to go into CO2 as an additional technology. To keep the implementation simple GREEN fridges were defined by 3 characteristics: Energy Management System, LEDs and HCs. Applying these 3 technologies in a fridge will save a lot of energy and CO2. In the beginning using product characteristics makes it very easy to implement and check. Since then we have defined our own baseline and our own testing protocol to manage and underpin our progress.

hydrocarbons21.com: Are the hydrocarbon fridges more efficient, and do they produce less heat?

Yes, these fridges are overall 38% more energy efficient than traditional ones. Hydrocarbons account for 10-15% of these energy savings; LED lighting for 10%; energy efficient fans for 5-10%; and the Energy Management System is responsible for somewhere between 10-20%. Compared to the fridges we had in 2010, some of the units we have today are 60-70% more energy efficient.

hydrocarbons21.com: Going back to legislation, we heard just now that Red Bull had applied for SNAP, is Heineken looking for specific approvals in the next 12 months?

MTH: If HCs are now allowed in the U.S., Heineken we will definitely investigate if and how we can change over. I’m not sure how quickly it would be, because we have fixed the tenders for 2014. We have the target to save 50% energy in 2020 so more HC fridges on the market will help us to reach that target. I hope others will follow as well.

hydrocarbons21.com: Can you tell us which suppliers you are working with for the hydrocarbon fridge suppliers?

We work with all the big suppliers but also smaller component suppliers. We have a list of around 110 approved fridges that we send to our local purchasers. However, if they have a local fridge supplier that can demonstrate they’re as good as the rest, that is fine as well.

hydrocarbons21.com: You talked briefly about how important refrigeration is within Sustainability at Heineken. Just to recap, can you give us a bit of an insight into that?

MTH: One of the 4 key focus areas for us is reducing our carbon footprint - Heineken has done, 3 years in a row, extensive CO2 studies of all the operating companies we have looking at the whole value chain. We have now calculated our carbon footprint based on 92% of our produced volume excluding some small countries. Of this packaging represents 31%, cooling 29%, distribution 9%, brewing 17%, and agriculture is about 8%. Therefore cooling is the second biggest contributor to our carbon footprint, and that is why Heineken decided to define a green fridge policy.

I want to point out that whilst we have a fridge policy, we don’t have a policy on the inline coolers yet, although we do follow the requirements with the inline coolers as well. This is because whereas fridges are “plug and play”.For inline coolers there is no standardization. Every country has its own separate inline cooler configuration -. But we have been trying to see if we can make something more standardised

hydrocarbons21.com: What are the key take-home messages for you from ATMOsphere Europe 2013? What would you take home from the discussions?

MTH: What I see is that natural refrigerants are becoming mainstream. Heineken started in 2008 with our first pilots. We are making major progress and you can see that everyone now has similar programs, which I think is good. Legislation is late; but legislation quite often plays catch-up to changed societal realities.

hydrocarbons21.com: Is it really Industry that is driving this progress with the CGF and Refrigerants Naturally! ?

Yes, I think industry is driving the adoption of natural refrigerants. We just need to make sure that legislation sets the basic targets and boundaries. Sometimes these are too restrictive and limiting competition. Legislation should leave room for innovations to fulfill the requirements. Then industry will do what business does naturally, and that is find the most commercially interesting way to meet those targets.

Thank you very much!


By Silvia Scaldaferri

Dec 04, 2013, 10:27

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