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Bulletin of the IIR - No 2002-2

Jan E. Duiven is a dairy technologist. He began his career as manager in the dairy industry before becoming dairy consultant at the Ministry of Agriculture in The Hague, then Project Manager (in the food-additives field) in the chemical industry. Jan Duiven’s active involvement in cold stores began in 1973 when he became manager of a cold

store. F om 1980 until 2000, Jan Duiven was President of the Dutch Association of Cold Stores and before becoming

an Honorary Member of the Dutch Association of Refrigeration, he was Secretary/T easurer (1991-1997). Jan Duiven

was President of the European Cold Storage and Logistics Association (ECSLA) from 1992 until 1995.



Philippe Binard is the Secretary General of ECSLA, the European Cold Storage and Logistics Association. He has been active in this association since 1987 and became Secretary General in 1991. ECSLA groups national organizations of temperature-controlled logistics across Europe, representing close to 40 million m 3 . ECSLA’s activities are structured around various committees, including an EU Affairs Committee, a Technical Committee and a Logistics Committee. The President of ECSLA is Mr Theo Callaert (Vanden Avenue Cold Store, Belgium).

Refrigerated Storage: New Developments


Jan E. Duiven* and Philippe Binard**

*Former President of the European Cold Storage and Logistics Association (ECSLA), Brussels, Belgium: **General Secretary of ECSLA:


Cold stores (Europe) or Refrigerated Warehouses (US) are facilities where perishable foodstuffs are handled and stored under controlled temperatures with the aim of maintaining quality. Preservation of food can occur under chilled (above zero) or frozen (below zero) temperatures. For some products, other conditions besides temperature control might be required: for living products (e.g. fruit) the moisture content and/or the composition of the surrounding atmosphere has to be changed as well. CA (Controlled-Atmosphere) storage or ULO (Ultra-Low-Oxygen) storage are some of the techniques available.

There are two categories of cold stores: those belonging to the food producer or the retailer themselves and those belonging to an independent firm. The first category of cold stores is known as "private cold stores". The latter provide services to third parties and belong to the category of "public” (or commercial) cold stores. In this article, we confine ourselves to public cold stores.

Public cold stores are part of the cold chain, which runs from the producer to the consumer. The position of a cold store in this chain can be different. "Production cold stores" are active at the beginning and "distribution cold stores" at the end of the cold chain. Cold stores at seaports constitute a special group. They play an important role in in-transit bulk storage. Finally, public cold stores are utilized by governments to store surpluses of butter, beef within the framework of agricultural policy, notably in Europe.

Most cold stores provide additional services for their clients. These services are called Value Added Logistics (VAL). These activities could involve: freezing fresh products, packing, transport, order picking, distribution, stock control and the like. This means that cold storage operations are no longer limited to storage, but also include a wide range of divergent activities, which implies specific design and lay-out of the building. In this article, we will review some new developments over the last few years.


Most cold store chambers are built as single stores and constructed using a supporting metal frame that is covered with prefabricated insulating panels. As insulating material, synthetic foams such as polyurethane (PUR) or polyisocyanurate (PIR), including the vapour barrier, are widely used. The blowing agent of new foams has to be free from (H)CFCs. Sometimes, for fire protection, the outside walls of the chambers are cladded in an incombustible skin (e.g. concrete). The metal frame is the most vulnerable

Bulletin of the IIR - No 2002-2

part of the building in case of a fire. At a certain temperature, it will collapse. For protection, a special coating has been developed. It has to be applied to the steel structure before the cold store is cooled down. The coating forms a foam layer as soon as the temperature rises. The stability of the steel

construction is then protected for a certain time in case of a fire.

In many countries, the surface or

volume of each chamber is limited. This limitation is based on the fire regulations of the local authorities. To reduce energy consumption, the thickness of the insulation material is increasing. For frozen storage, 200-mm walls are recommended and for chilled storage, 140 mm is advisable. Close attention has to be paid to the roof. To hold back excessive heat infiltration by sunrays, an extra roof ("sunroof") with a ventilated void, is recommended. More and more attention is paid to the tightness of the chambers in order to block leakage of cold and ingress of moisture. It can be concluded that energy-conservation policy has led to upgrading of the quality of cold store buildings.


Usually, goods are packed in cartons and palletized. The speed of stock turnover, the product mix and occupancy rate determine the storage technique. This could include static racks, drive-through racks and mobile racks. A conventional forklift truck is able to stack 5 pallets high. This means that the maximum height of a single store is about l0 m. For horizontal transport sometimes Automatic Guided Vehicles (AGVs) are applied. 2

Higher stores – known as high-rise or high-bay stores – can go up to 40 m and require stacker cranes. In such situations, cold stores are fully automatic, which until now was quite exceptional. For automatic handling of palletized goods modular packing and standardized pallets are desirable. For the sake of completeness: for handling non-palletized goods, such as beef quarters, special handling facilities exist.

In order to move pallets in and out, generally forklift trucks are used, together with automatic sliding doors. A new development is the application of a pallet conveyor, two small doors and an air lock. The forklift truck remains permanently inside the chamber. Only the batteries are loaded outside and exchanged from time to time. The forklift trucks are more and more often equipped with a heated cabin in order to protect the driver from cold. In this situation infiltration of heat and vapour into the cold room can greatly be reduced.


Many cold stores are equipped with freezing facilities for fresh products, for example fresh meat. Air-blast freezing (tunnels) and contact freezing (plate freezers) are widely used freezing systems. A deeper understanding of these processes has been acquired over the past few years.

Air blast freezers

The optimal freezing conditions are:

- air temperatures down to -40°C;

- air velocity: up to 4 m/s;

- appropriate airflow over the product.

Very often, products are packed in cartons before freezing. The air velocity between the carton layers can be adjusted by so-called spacers. The profile and cross-section of spacers have to be optimized. A cross-


section of up to 70 mm is mostly necessary to realize sufficient air velocity over the cartons.

times can run from 16 to 30 hours, depending on the kind of product, whether products are packed or

unpacked, the surface-to-weight ratio, and other parameters.


Further optimization of the freezing process can be obtained by intermittent regulation of the compressor and fans in order to control supply and demand of cold during this process. 4

To facilitate loading and unloading of a freezing tunnel with palletized products, a robot can be installed. The advantage is that the batch blast freezing method can be transformed into a continuous process. The robot places the product in the tunnel and removes it following freezing. Freezing of the product can be started immediately after arrival. The process can be programmed and the pallet can be picked up as soon as the freezing period is over. Defrosting of evaporators can also be programmed and can be

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performed less frequently compared with the conventional method. The energy consumption per ton product will be lower. Last but not least, workers no longer have to work at low temperatures.

Plate freezers

For small products such as slaughterhouse products (meat offal, livers, etc.) and fish, vertical plate freezers are very suitable. When the plate freezers are leakproof, liquids such as orange juice or blood can also be frozen. Freezing times are shorter and energy consumption is lower, compared with blast freezing, due to higher heat transfer and the lack of air fans. For 100 mm product thickness, a 3.5-hour freezing time is achievable. 5 By means of a plate freezer, unpacked products can be frozen into blocks and palletized, which facilitates handling afterwards. Savings, in terms of packing materials and cold- storage space, can be achieved. (Semi-)automatic equipment is available for loading and unloading the freezers.



The level of hygiene in cold stores was raised thanks to the introduction of HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points), a regulation which in Western Europe is based on legal requirements. The aim is to ensure the safety of food. Introduction of HACCP consists of two steps: (1) Hazard Analysis and (2) Critical Control Points. The first step includes tracing of potential causes of harm, which can be biological, chemical or physical. The second step involves a procedure through which control can be applied and food safety hazards can be prevented, eliminated or reduced to acceptable levels (Codex Alimentarius


Introduction of HACCP in a food producing company, including cold stores, requires a great deal of employee participation. However, after successful introduction, a plant can be certified by a recognized authority. In the future, HACCP will be in force on a compulsory basis for the whole food chain. Other systems, such as Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) can act as a substitute for HACCP. Sometimes HACCP is combined with a quality management system, based on lSO serial 9000. In practice, HACCP is specially relevant in cold stores which handle unpacked fresh food such as meat. The main requirements are:

- closed loading docks for the reception and delivery of goods;

- white, easily cleanable walls and ceilings in manufacturing rooms;

- rounded corners at the junctions between the walls and the floor;

- adequate discharge of effluent water;

- a high level of personal hygiene;

- hygienic washrooms and toilets;

- a suitable system for cleaning and disinfecting rooms and equipment;

- lay-out of rooms such that contamination with other goods cannot take place;

- an effective monitoring system.

Food temperature

Correct and constant temperature of foodstuffs during storage is one of the most important aspects of food preservation throughout the food-supply chain. In this area various regulations are providing temperature requirements. These vary according to the kind of food (animal or vegetable origin), condition (chilled or frozen), and whether it is processed or not.

Frozen food can lose organoleptic quality when the temperature in the chain is too high. Certain frozen fat-containing foodstuffs can acquire a rancid taste caused by fat oxidation when the temperature rise lasts too long and/or is too high; ice-cream can get a "sandy" taste when the storage temperature fluctuates too much. For chilled food, it is not only the quality which can decrease at a temperature that is too high: the safety of the product for the consumer can also be at stake. Contamination with toxin- producing bacteria could occur. Notorious in this case are the Listeria monocytogenes and Yersinia enterocolitica species. These micro-organisms can grow at relatively low temperatures; they are psychrophilic. At 2°C they can even multiply, but at 7°C, a temperature applied during transport and short- term chilled storage, the growth rate can double.

Bulletin of the IIR - No 2002-2

It is not unusual for some food producing companies or retailers to require lower temperatures than those specified by legal regulations to make sure that the temperature requirements are complied with at the various levels of the chain. Nowadays, chilled meat is transported overseas at -1°C. The keeping quality is maintained for several weeks. The use of vacuum packaging or modified-atmosphere packaging (MAP) for chilled and living produce such as fruit and vegetables is developing. In this case, the air is partly or totally replaced by CO 2 or N 2 . At the same time, strict temperature control is essential. The aim is to avoid the disadvantages of frozen food, including thawing.


The electric energy consumption of existing cold stores ranges between 30 and 50 kWh/m 3 /year for storage. It is depends on the quality of the building, on the activities (chilled or frozen storage), room size, stock turnover, temperature of the incoming produce, outside temperatures, etc. The total cost of electric energy is about 10 to 15% of the total running costs of a store. Improving Energy Efficiency (EE) has two goals: cost reduction and environmental protection.

Recently, the EE of cold stores has improved considerably. For existing facilities this has been achieved by Good Housekeeping Practices. This means additional insulation, efficient motors, minimized pressure difference between compressor and condenser in refrigeration, better door discipline or/and automatic

In this way, the EE can

closing doors, improved electro-mechanical control systems and other measures. be increased by 20%, compared with normal practice.


Much more spectacular results can be obtained by accurate building and design of new stores. One could highlight among others:

- thicker floor, wall and roof insulation;

- use of infeed and outfeed conveyors with lock gates for pallets instead of doors;

- selection of the right compressor and refrigerant;

- appropriate selection of components of the refrigerating process;

- application of speed control for compressors to achieve full-load during refrigeration, as well as speed control of fans;

- electronic expansion valves;

- adequate pipe dimensions and insulation;

- advanced lighting methods;

- defrosting using hot gas;

- computer control system, monitoring and data processing.

These efforts can increase a calculated EE by about 50%, again compared with normal practice. We must strike a balance between the extra capital investment and energy savings in order to be cost effective during operation of the store. In many countries, however, investments in energy-saving programmes are stimulated by state subsidies. Existing cost calculation models can be helpful in order to take the right decisions. 7

Freezing raw material consumes a lot of energy. For blast freezers, figures indicate a consumption level of 70 to 130 kWh/ton of product; for plate freezers, figures cite 60 to 100 kWh/ton. 8

The EE can be increased considerably By optimization of freezing processes. A guideline that could be used is the Coefficient of Performance (COP) of the compressor or - if definable - the Coefficient of System Performance (COSP) of the whole operating system.


There has been a lot of discussion and confusion concerning refrigerants over the past 20 years. Part of the industry is using ammonia (R717), while other practitioners are using chlorofluorocarbons (primarily


Bulletin of the IIR - No 2002-2

For the sake of the environment, the Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP), the Global Warming Potential (GWP) and the Total Equivalent Warming Impact (TEWI) have become the leading criteria in the choice of refrigerants today.

Ammonia (NH 3 ), the classic refrigerant, is environmentally friendly (zero ODP and zero GWP) and has excellent thermodynamic characteristics. However, under exceptional conditions the gas is toxic and flammable. In case of leakage into the cold room it can also affect the quality of the stored produce. Safety measures are necessary. At national levels, standards, regulations and Codes of Practices on the safety of NH 3 have been adopted.

Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) will be phased out. Alternatives are fluorocarbons (HFCs), mostly in the form of blends. Although their ODP is zero, their GWP is not. During recent years, leakage has been reduced to a few percent per year per plant. Attempts are being undertaken to further reduce leakage; in some countries such actions are compulsory and defined by regulations.

Conventional NH 3 refrigerating machines work with overfeed on refrigerant (pump system). A new development is the application of the Direct Expansion (DX) system for NH 3 with specially developed lubricating oils. Due to the low charge of refrigerant, safety problems are markedly reduced.


It is possible to use NH 3 as primary refrigerant and a brine or an ice slurry as secondary refrigerant. Here

The best

technical solution for industrial refrigeration up to now has been the application of NH 3 and CO 2 (R744) in

two refrigeration cycles. It is called the NH 3 /CO 2 cascade system. Components are under development. The first installations are working in practice and ensuring total user satisfaction. Here again, the NH 3 charge is very low and this makes the safety problems negligible. CO 2 is harmless for the environment: it is non-toxic and non-flammable. The energy consumption is the same or even lower compared with conventional systems. 11 It is the most promising development for the future.

too, the quantity of NH 3 is very low; however, energy consumption will be about 10% higher.



Each workplace carries with it some risks, and cold-storage activities are no exception. Recently, interest in risk prevention has grown, stimulated by different international associations of cold store managers and by technical institutions active in refrigeration. Therefore, safety programmes have been developed and enhanced information supply and worker education on safety are being promoted. Important issues are:

Release of refrigerant

R717 (NH 3 ) is the best-known refrigerating system for which safety regulations, directions, standards and codes exist, all because of its toxicity. In Western Europe, each country has its own national regulations. European harmonization of those regulations will gradually take place. The regulations concern not only the workers inside the building but also the surrounding environment. Release of (chloro)fluorocarbons is related to the environment, although release in enclosed areas can cause suffocation in man without any warning smell. For environmental reasons, in some countries there are regulations regarding technical standards and maintenance of the refrigerating equipment by certified technicians in order to reduce leakage as much as possible. For both types of refrigerants modern leak-detection systems are used. In all cases, the worrying refrigerant issues have led to higher technical standards concerning refrigerating plants and better control of the refrigerating process. Control at a distance (remote control) is one new development. And last but not least, commitment to the environment has considerably increased.

Accidents during work

Most risks with which cold-store workers are confronted relate to transit accidents due to forklift vehicle traffic. Working and material conditions are important aspects of prevention policy.


Fire prevention is an important measure for cold stores, not only to protect workers, but also to protect buildings and stored produce. The value of the produce often exceeds many times over that of the building. This is even more accentuated by the scaling up of cold stores these days. In European countries, different national legislation governs fire prevention for buildings and testing procedures for

Bulletin of the IIR - No 2002-2

materials. Standardization is gradually being achieved. For firefighting, CO 2 sprinklers are sometimes installed. The most advanced systems lower the oxygen content in the chambers to under 16%, so that no fire can keep burning. This technology is restricted to automatically operating stores without workers in them.


The noise level is an important issue for workers and for the surrounding as well. Modern rotating equipment such as compressors and fans are made sound-proof by decreasing the number of revolutions per minute and/or by protecting the equipment using sound damping insulating materials.

The level of sound pressure is expressed in decibels (dB) on a logarithmic scale, corrected for the average human ear by an A-filter as dB(A), the present-day standard. In environmental regulations, the maximum sound differs from country to country and from region to region, but also between day and night. For example: maximum 45 dB(A) during the day and 40 dB(A) during the night.


Application of IT to stock control is being progressively phased in for cold-store operations. In small companies with bulk storage ("production stores") a simple manual coding system is used. For large companies and especially for "distribution stores", IT is a must.

For internal purposes, bar coding can be used for palletized goods. It is the most efficient method devised so far. For this purpose, the EAN-128 bar code is the most suitable. This code has been developed for logistics and can accommodate all the essential information concerning goods flow and information flow. In practice, the bar code can be read by a handscanner or with the help of Radio Frequency (RF)

technology. The data are processed using the warehouse computer. The driver of the forklift truck, equipped with a Radio Data Terminal (RDT) and a bar code reader, can be instructed to store the pallet in the most suitable empty place in the cold room as well as to locate and identify it at the moment of dispatching. This is called tracking and tracing (to find and identify). The same procedure can be followed for separate boxes in the case of orderpicking. The latest technology for this function is voice recognition.

A technology under development is the

application of a transponder, a micro-chip applied to a pallet or a box; this micro-chip contains all relevant

Instructions are given by the voice of the orderpicker.


information necessary for the flow of goods. This can be read by a scanner. There are various warehouse management systems for logistics on the market.

For internal and external use, the application of IT goes much further. It involves the whole supply chain. Each link of the chain can be provided with the relevant information required from and for customers, transporters, distributors and retailers, and if required, extended with services ensuring temperature monitoring, order entry, invoicing, etc. The bar code forms the connection between inside and the outside. The information is transferred by Telematica, most by EDI (Electronic Data Interexchange) with the aid of EDIFACT as international standard. Large distribution companies have developed their own specific software in co-operation with their partners in the chain (co-makership).

EDI makes integration of the whole food supply chain possible. This can bring about many advantages:

fast and secure information, improved service (shorter lead time), flexible communication, paperless administration, etc.


Public or commercial cold storage is a growing business because food producers and retailers are increasingly outsourcing their logistic activities. Moreover, consumption of chilled and frozen food is increasing.

Cold storage is becoming a logistic activity ensuring that food is temperature controlled. It is impacting on the design, construction and lay-out of the buildings.

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Hygienic handling of the goods is given high priority, as is accurate temperature control in the cold chain (HACCP).

Growing attention is also being paid to the environment in the form of Energy Efficiency (EE) and to refrigerant management, the safety of workers and the surrounding environment.

Information Technology (IT) makes it possible to manage the whole logistic process, from producer to consumer, thus covering the entire food supply chain.


1. Personal Information. P. Jacob, Unterschleissheim (Germany).

2. Bouwwijzer Energy Efficiency Koel- en Vrieshuizen, 2000 (The Netherlands).

3. Project: Koel- en Vrieshuizen maken invriesproces efficiënter, Nr. 382.07.099.11

NOVEM, Utrecht (The Netherlands). Web site:

4. Van Dijck FHJ. Optimalisatie Invriestunnels RBK.

5. Lassen O. New Plate Freezer Application. Int. Congress of Refrigeration (1995), The Hague

Netherlands. IIR Proceedings IIIa, 637-643.

6. Energy Guide ECSLA, Brussels (Belgium); September 2000.

7. ROI-model Kostenkalkulation für Kühlhäuser, ECSLA 2001.

8. Larsen JK. Reduction of energy consumption for refrigeration at cold stores. Danish Meat Research

Institute, Ref. 48.228 Notat (April 1999).

9 Gerritsen (Grenco Refrigeration). Paper TAC-meeting ECSLA), Vught (The Netherlands), September


10. Kruse H. Current International Status of Natural Working Fluids (Ammonia) in Refrigeration Systems.

IIAR paper, New Orleans (US), 1997.

11. Personal Information GTI Post Koudetechniek (The Netherlands).

12. Freedom of Speech. Frozen & Chilled Foods Europe, May 2001, 23.