In 1979, McDonald's introduced the first national Happy Meal. Meanwhile, in Maryland, John Fleck Sr. founded Arctic Refrigeration. Arctic Refrigeration soon became known as the company to call when beverage production facilities have a cooling challenge — think big bottlers like Coca-Cola, Pepsi Cola, Shasta Beverages, Refresco USA, and RC Cola.
Recently, Arctic Refrigeration tackled a multi-year retrofit and expansion at a Coca-Cola bottling facility in Henrico, Virginia, just outside of Richmond. The bottling plant had three, 20-year-old ammonia condensers serving a beverage cooling system.
Bottling soft drinks requires a lot of cooling capacity. Un-carbonated soda enters the cooling system at about 90°F, and must be cooled before carbon dioxide can be added during the bottling process. If CO2 is added to hot liquid, it bubbles out, which creates a ‘short fill’ in bottles and cans.
Bottling systems typically require liquid filling temperatures around 36°F. On the bottling line, product flows through a large plate-and-frame heat exchanger. Ammonia flowing through the other side of the heat exchanger strips the beverage of thermal energy before re-entering the single-stage refrigerant circuit. The blending systems generally have a 54°F Delta-T across the heat exchanger. Each bottling line has a single heat exchanger, with flow rates between 100 or 200 GPM.
In 2019, Arctic replaced the condensers at the Coca-Cola plant with a water-cooled, dual-cell Evapco ATC-1915e condenser, providing 1,200 tons of heat rejection. In 2021, they returned to install a single-cell ammonia condenser for an additional 600 tons of capacity to serve new bottling lines.
Arctic Refrigeration built the entire cooling system, which includes an Alfa Laval heat exchanger and ammonia chiller, a 600-ton Evapco condenser, and Pulse~Pure chemical-free water treatment.
The company began installing chemical-free systems back in the 1980s. At the time, creating a chemical-free system involved buying components from a variety of very small companies and assembling them onsite. The 2019 Coca-Cola project was Arctic Refrigeration’s first installation of Pulse~Pure: a pre-built, engineered system that comes as an option on Evapco’s cooling towers and condensers, built specifically for and shipped with that unit.
Chemical-free water treatment uses pulsed electric fields to solve three water quality challenges typical of water-cooled systems: hardness, alkalinity, and microbial growth. Recirculating water from the evaporative cooling system passes through a pulse-chamber where it’s exposed to alternating high and low frequency electric fields. This impacts both the surface charge of small suspended particles and free-floating microbial organisms found in cooling water.
The Pulse~Pure system also eliminates the logistics and labor associated with chemical treatment, including the cost of chemicals and the environmental impact of chemicals going down the drain.
Fleck estimates that the Coca-Cola facility, with a total of 1,800 tons of heat rejection capacity, is saving thousands of dollars per year on chemical treatment costs.