Belgian Organic Food Chain Aims at Full R290 Conversion by 2029

Colruyt division Bio-Planet plans to equip all 31 small stores with R290 chillers and R600a chest freezers.

Bio-Planet store in Antwerp, Belgium.

Belgium organic store chain Bio-Planet, a Colruyt Group division that already boasts 12 hydrocarbon-based refrigeration installations, aims to have all of its 31 stores equipped with these systems by 2029.

Bio-Planet’s plans represent the first success story being shared by the EU-funded RefrigerantsNaturally4LIFE (RefNat4LIFE!) project, which is promoting case studies of successfully implemented natural refrigerant installations in small, organic retail applications. 

The chain is known for its fresh food area and catering counter, which offer a unique range of meat, cheese, preparations and vegetarian products. 

“As a supermarket, Bio-Planet wants more than ever to make a difference on the Belgian market, thanks to a true and good assortment, which excels in health, ecology and respect,” said Collin Bootsveld, Project Engineer, Colruyt Group. “It offers an in-store experience that simplifies the life of customers while inspiring them.”

In line with that mission, Bio-Planet “continues to focus on sustainable innovation,” added Bootsveld. “By 2029, all Bio-Planet stores will be equipped with natural refrigeration systems using propane.”

As of July 2020, there were 31 Bio-Planet organic stores throughout Belgium, each at around 600m2 (6,458ft2) in size and employing a total of 500 staff members. 


R290 chillers

In 2012, the Colruyt Group set itself an ambitious objective: to reduce its CO2e emissions by 20% by 2020 compared to the 2008 baseline year and in proportion to sales. The company aims to increase this reduction to 40% by 2030, confirmed Bootsveld. 

To that end, Colruyt has been opting for natural refrigerant-based propane compact chillers – in contrast with many other food retailers that use self-contained R290 display cases – wherever possible for new stores and older ones in need of refurbishment. Waste heat from the refrigeration system is recovered for heating purposes.

To educate customers, Bio-Planet displays the major sustainability measures taken in the specific shop at the entrance for everyone to see.

A variety of natural refrigerant-based equipment is used in the Bio-Planet stores. This includes propane compact chillers, chest freezers with isobutane (R600a), and CO2 (R744) heat pumps for domestic hot water.

The most important considerations when purchasing equipment for these stores are reliability, sustainability, efficiency, maintenance practicality, and life cycle cost, noted Bootsveld. Regulations are also considered but the team has experienced no issues or legal barriers. The flammability of the propane cooling solution and the resulting safety measures were discussed with the regional authorities.

The adopted technology features a compact chiller based on the principle of a ventilated enclosure. It produces both hot and cold glycol. The chiller can be easily exchanged in case of a technical defect. One reserve chiller is in place as well for redundancy. The cold glycol is pumped towards the refrigerated cabinets, air handling units and coolers. The warm glycol is pumped towards the heating system or a dry cooler on the roof.

The electricity used for the store is generated from renewable sources such as solar PV, cogeneration, and wind power – making these installations even more environmentally friendly. 


Positive results

Thanks to all these measures, the Bio-Planet stores realized a greenhouse gas emissions reduction of more than 99% and the shops no longer use any fossil fuels for heating. Also, the energy efficiency for the cooling is roughly the same as for an HFC installation, so no compromise was made on indirect emissions either. 

To download this and other natural refrigerant case studies, as well as related reports, visit the RefNat4Life website.

By Ilana Koegelenberg (@Ilana_Ed)

Jan 26, 2021, 09:54

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