Active Refrigeration creates refrigeration systems that also heat

Casestudytile ActiveRefrigeration 001 SL B 201508 Open

Around 10% of New Zealand’s food manufacturing energy use is expended in refrigeration – meat, dairy, wine, fresh produce; almost all of New Zealand’s food producers need this technology.

Active Refrigeration creates refrigeration systems that also heat [pdf 141 KB]


There are huge opportunities for energy efficiency and cost savings, as New Zealand’s old “Freon” (CFC) refrigeration systems come up for replacement.

Most of those old systems are likely to be replaced by ammonia-based refrigeration, a natural product which has been used for over a century, but fell out of favour due to safety concerns which have now been addressed.

Active Refrigeration is using ammonia-based refrigeration to create simultaneous cooling and high temperature heating from the same plant, making substantial gains in energy efficiency and winning a Sustainable 60 award for their work.

The Christchurch-based company designed and installed their new system at Ashburton Meat Processors (owned by A.Verkerks). Co-Director Craig Duff explains,

“We’d given a paper at a conference extolling the virtues of high temperature ammonia heat pumps, but we hadn’t had the chance to build one. Ashburton Meat Processors gave us that opportunity. We did all the engineering work for free because we wanted to prove this technology will be a game changer.”

The figures speak for themselves – the plant is achieving annual energy savings of over $200,000, which has freed up capital for maintenance and upgrades at other Verkerks operations. The new kit ensures Ashburton Meat Processors’ viability and stability as an employer, and they have been able to increase output with confidence. The system will have paid for itself within three years.

Co-Director Graeme Green points out that there are other important gains. “The thermal energy source has changed from Light Fuel Oil (LFO) to a mixture of electricity and LPG. This has reduced the plant’s carbon footprint by 42% (690 tonnes), lowering exposure to future emissions trading taxation, and making a good marketing story.”

“Most primary industry companies require simultaneous cooling and high temperature heating. We think our new system is competitive in the market because the numbers are really compelling – we can demonstrate that at Ashburton Meat Processors.”

Craig Duff is excited about future opportunities. “The design and engineering principle is applicable to a massive amount of plant in New Zealand, not just the meat industry.”

Key benefits

  • Energy savings and efficiency through capturing and adding energy to heat produced as a byproduct of the cooling system, leading to very high performance efficiencies.
  • Ashburton Meat Processors’ new plant has been able to confidently take on increased capacity.
  • Reduced carbon footprint, which reduces potential impact of a carbon charge and provides positive branding opportunities.
  • Longer lifespan of the plant, strengthening the business and providing stability of employment.

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