The first supermarket-based carbon dioxide (CO2) refrigeration plant has been commissioned in South Africa, at a Woolworths store north of Johannesburg, and is delivering encouraging efficiency.

The news comes from the latest edition of the SACGA’s Gas Focus publication, which reports that the plant is operating extremely efficiently and this new application will benefit our industry worldwide.

According to Gas Focus, the store opened in October 2009 and the developer of the system is Commercial Refrigeration Services (Pty) Ltd (CRS). A first for South Africa, the plant has now been commissioned.

Woolworths commissioned CRS to research the use of CO2 in its quest to be the pioneers of ozone-friendly refrigerants in supermarkets in Southern Africa.

CRS started its research in Australia, where a number of the trans-critical CO2 systems have been installed, three of which are in Sydney. The systems are all based on CO2 pump recirculation for the medium temperature, direct expansion valve CO2 for the low and 134a for the high side.

Following the Australian visit, CRS was given the opportunity to visit Marks & Spencer in the UK due to Woolworths’ special relationship with the organisation; Marks & Spencer installed its first CO2 refrigeration system almost four years ago.

Following their return from the UK, it was considered that an exact copy of the Marks & Spencer system be installed in the new South African Woolworths store. The only drawback was the cost of importing all the required equipment. It was decided that CRS would build and install a small pilot plant at its Johannesburg factory to carry out testing.

The installation has been well documented and is now operating extremely efficiently. The other reason for installing a pilot plant was to familiarise their technicians in the use of CO2 refrigeration.

The report claims Woolworths is very satisfied with the first installation and Alex Kuzma, who is in charge of Woolworths Engineering Services, has stated that it is the company’s intention to both install similar units in new stores and retrofit the larger existing stores in the future.