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Protecting Vaccine Efficacy Throughout the Cold Chain

Chris Ashbaugh | Head of Healthcare

Emerson’s Commercial & Residential Solutions Business

As has been widely publicized, COVID-19 vaccines come with more than a few challenges in terms of storage and distribution. When the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine became available, it was required to be stored at ultra-low temperatures between -80 to -60 °C (-112 to -76 °F). More recently, this ultra-cold storage requirement was removed from the Pfizer vaccine, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved its storage and transportation at standard freezer temperatures for up to two weeks. The Moderna vaccine requires a frozen cold chain but can be refrigerated for up to 30 days before use. The Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine, meanwhile, must be refrigerated but never frozen, per guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

To further complicate an already high-stakes process, cold chain integrity must be maintained throughout multiple hand-offs among stakeholders, including suppliers, distributors and healthcare organizations. In the process, distributors and healthcare providers need to meet varying — but nonetheless strict — temperature requirements to move and store these vaccines. Any temperature excursions, even for a short period of time, can reduce or destroy a vaccine’s potency and/or safety.

Investing in the equipment required to safeguard vaccines would be a risky bet if it were left to untested technology. The good news is the technology supporting the COVID-19 vaccine rollout is not unproven. In fact, Emerson has decades of experience providing the end-to-end temperature reliability that manufacturers, distributors and healthcare providers rely on to help protect vaccine efficacy.

Ensuring reliability in refrigeration system performance

All vaccines must be stored at precise temperature ranges. For this reason, refrigeration system reliability is essential to cold chain management. This is as true for the cold storage freezers at manufacturing sites as it is for the vaccine storage units at the points of vaccination and the refrigerated containers and reefer trucks used to transport vials. If any one of these cold storage units failed, hundreds to thousands of doses could potentially be wiped out.

Emerson’s highly reliable, energy-efficient Copeland™ compression solutions are designed to maintain more accurate setpoints and tighter control over temperatures. Our compression solutions deliver faster pull-downs to setpoint temperatures and maintain precise temperature control to provide greater energy efficiency without sacrificing system dependability. They also produce less wear and tear on system components, improving overall refrigeration system performance and lifespan.

Safeguarding efficacy through monitoring technologies

Monitoring solutions and internet of things (IoT) capabilities are proving foundational to maintaining temperature certainty.

At an enterprise level, Emerson offers technology platforms that provide nearly real-time visibility into refrigeration performance and help to protect the safety and efficacy of critical medicines. Long before the current public health crisis, our TempTrak® probes and enterprise monitoring solution have helped leading healthcare providers to achieve their patient safety and product integrity goals. In addition, Emerson’s ProAct™ Connect+ enterprise management software enables operators to monitor equipment performance and rapidly respond to equipment issues. Our Lumity™ E3 supervisory control and facility management system send alerts and notifications to provide continuous refrigeration monitoring that is essential to protecting vaccine efficacy.

For a more portable solution, we recently launched our Lumity wireless data logger to enable temperature monitoring of vaccine storage containers in accordance with the CDC’s requirements. This powerful, yet economical solution has a built-in information technology (IT) infrastructure to simplify deployment, including:

  • No Wi-Fi required for connectivity
  • No additional hardware or cloud software required for data storage and retrieval
  • Able to operate as a stand-alone solution or integrate with TempTrak software

To help ensure maximum temperature accuracy, the Lumity wireless data logger is available with different probes depending on the application, a standard temperature probe as well as a buffered ultra-low temperature (cryogenic) probe with or without a buffer sleeve. All told, it’s a quick and simple way to help healthcare providers of all sizes bring vaccine management into compliance.

Earth Day 2021: Partnering With Stakeholders for a Greener Future

John Rhodes |Group President, Cold Chain
Emerson’s Commercial & Residential Solutions Business

On this Earth Day (Thursday, April 22), more than a billion people around the globe will take stock of the planet’s health and the actions we all can do to protect the environment.

This year’s theme is “Restore Our Earth”. At Emerson, we see this as a call to action that we simply cannot ignore. Climate change and resource conservation are among the most pressing challenges facing our planet. According to NASA, Earth’s global average surface temperature in 2020 tied with 2016 as the warmest year on record. It is just one of many data points that show we have work to do to reverse a long-term warming trend.

The commercial refrigeration sector has been focused on mitigating climate change for decades. The Montreal Protocol, ratified in 1987, resulted in a successful effort to ban refrigerants with ozone depletion potential (ODP). In 2019, the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol created a framework for phasing down the use of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants with high global warming potential (GWP).

However, phasing down high-GWP refrigerants is not enough to halt climate change on its own. We must also consider the total equivalent warming impact (TEWI) of commercial refrigeration systems — which takes into account direct emissions and the energy required to run these systems.

Emerson is committed to helping our customers to understand, navigate and comply with environmental and regulatory challenges. By providing solutions and guidance that promote sustainability and conservation, we are partners in the race to reduce commercial refrigeration’s TEWI.

Committed to global sustainability initiatives

At Emerson, we share a unified purpose to drive innovation that makes the world healthier, safer, smarter and more sustainable. Our planet is among the five causes supported by this important initiative, which drives us to deliver sustainable solutions that improve efficiency, reduce emissions, and conserve resources.

Around the world, we have intensified our efforts to be more efficient in our energy usage and reduce the intensity of our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. But we know that’s not enough. Sustainability measures have a greater impact when they are part of a team effort. To that end, we have established an environmental sustainability framework that reflects our drive to be a partner for change. This “greening” framework defines our environmental initiatives according to three categories:

  • Greening OF — driving down our GHG emissions intensity by 20 percent by 2028
  • Greening BY — providing products, solutions and services to help our customers transition to a low-carbon future
  • Greening WITH — engaging with external stakeholders to develop innovative solutions and shape future policy

In short, we are continually innovating and fine-tuning technologies, tools and insights to help operators and businesses meet their own environmental, social and governance initiatives.

For example, consider our efforts in the cold chain. Using technology and data-driven insights, cold chain stakeholders can create greater temperature stability and certainty. This, in turn, can curb energy usage and reduce waste at every step along the journey from farm to consumer and beyond. Our cold chain solutions encompass an ever-widening scope:

  • Managing refrigeration — Continuing advances in refrigeration technology, monitoring and controls help operators to maintain proper temperatures, comply with food safety regulations and reduce spoilage.
  • Optimizing facilities and reducing energy — A commercial refrigeration system accounts for 40 to 60 percent of total electricity consumption in supermarkets. Advanced asset management solutions enable operators to optimize refrigeration, HVAC and lighting systems for greater facility and enterprise-wide energy efficiency.
  • Reducing food waste — End-to-end cold chain solutions help ensure refrigeration reliability via equipment, systems and monitoring technologies to extend shelf life and prevent waste.
  • Converting waste to energy — Food recycling turns wasted food into an energy-rich slurry that can be used for energy production.
  • Electrifying the supply chain — Replacing diesel-powered refrigerated transport systems with environmentally friendly electric solutions.
  • Renewing energy — Explore technologies to capture biogas from landfills and transform it into renewable energy.

When component manufacturers, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), contractors and end users collaborate to develop ambitious solutions, everyone — including the planet — benefits.

Lower-GWP refrigerants continue to factor into sustainability plans

Advanced refrigeration technologies and new architecture strategies are providing operators with greater control over TEWI. However, in the quest for greener refrigeration, refrigerants still take center stage. Global policy and state and new federal rulemaking, including the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act of 2020 (AIM Act), reassert our country’s commitment to phase down HFC refrigerants.

Many retailers and restaurants are leading the way in exploring low-GWP refrigerant options. For some, this means retrofitting existing refrigeration architectures to transition to lower-GWP A1 refrigerants, such as R-448A/R-449A. Others are diving in by adopting greener options, such as R-290 integrated cases and CO2 transcritical and/or cascade systems. Meanwhile, our industry is closely evaluating the progression of A2L refrigerant safety standards in the U.S., as these mildly flammable alternatives offer very low-GWP levels and are gaining wider adoption in Europe.

Whether you’re looking to transition to lower-GWP refrigerants or lessen your TEWI, Emerson has the products and resources to support your goals. Our solutions can help you to optimize your facility operations, reduce energy use, minimize equipment failures, improve food quality and safety, and achieve regulatory compliance. Together, we can restore our planet for a better future.

 

 

Supermarket Food Safety: Emerson Cold Chain Solutions

Katrina Krites | Marketing and Business Development

Manager, Food Retail

Emerson’s Commercial and Residential Solutions Business

Providing consistently safe and high-quality food in supermarkets is important to each stakeholder in the food retail supply chain. From farm to fork, grocers depend on their cold chain suppliers to collect, share and report on the handling and shipping practices that contribute to food safety. In the first blog based on an article in PerishableNews.com, we examined food retail market trends and risk factors impacting food safety and quality. In this companion blog, we will explore how Emerson is helping food retailers and stakeholders address these challenges at nearly every step of the food supply chain.

Harvest and processing

The potential decay of perishable produce starts the moment it is picked, but this can be stunted by controlling temperatures and the ambient environment via: flash cooling/freezing; temporary staging in storage coolers; and pre-cooling shipping containers. Shipping containers may be modified with ripening agents, and processors often measure the levels of ethylene, a natural gas that can accelerate ripening.

Emerson provides temperature-probing devices that can be used to measure internal “pulp” temperatures prior to and during the staging and loading processes. Our real-time temperature monitoring and tracking devices can be activated inside a shipping container to immediately begin monitoring location, temperatures and other environmental conditions of in-transit perishable shipments.

Transportation

Food’s journey to supermarket shelves can last anywhere from days to weeks — by truck, sea and/or air — and grocers rely on their shippers to provide an unbroken chain of temperature certainty. Loading best practices promote airflow and shipments to be “load locked” in order to limit excess vibration. Transport containers must be able to maintain temperatures and provide visibility into container conditions. Mixed-load cargos may have different refrigerated temperature zones within the same shipment.

Emerson’s field-tested, proven compression technologies can withstand the rigors of the road while helping operators to ensure that their transport refrigeration systems preserve product at specified temperature ranges. Temperature monitoring, logging and tracking devices — combined with our cloud-based software portal — can provide real-time temperature and location conditions of product in-transit. The software enables live remote monitoring and issues alerts to stakeholders based on user-defined parameters, such as: temperature excursions; changes to shipping atmosphere; vibration; security breaches; and shipping delays.

Cold storage distribution centers

Upon receipt of food at a cold storage facility, handlers must inspect product temperatures and conditions, including pulp temperatures with probing devices, and trip data from logging and tracking devices. Relying on only the ambient air temperature of the shipping container is not an accurate measure, as some carriers may turn off the refrigeration system during shipping to preserve fuel. After inspection, handlers must promptly transfer perishable cargo into a designated cold storage temperature zone. The entire process must adhere to each facility’s established Hazardous Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) and/or Hazard Analysis and Risk-based Preventative Controls (HARPC) plans.

Emerson’s logging and tracking devices give end-users the ability to maintain live, remote visibility for monitoring the temperatures and locations of their in-transit shipping containers. In cold storage facilities, our compression and refrigeration technologies help operators to establish and maintain proper temperatures in various cold storage zones. Robust facility monitoring solutions help operators to remotely oversee conditions, ensure proper temperatures, and automatically record temperatures for use in HACCP reporting.

Grocery stores

From the moments perishable shipments are unloaded in supermarkets, operators take ownership of food quality and safety. This starts with inspection — checking pulp temperatures and trip data logs — and continues with the prompt transfer of perishables into designated cold storage coolers or freezers. Once in cold storage, control platforms help retailers to monitor perishable temperatures and optimize food quality.

Refrigerated storage and staging coolers for click-and-collect fulfillment must have sufficient capacity to handle fluctuations in order volumes and frequent opening/closing of walk-in doors. Order-picking processes and customer pick-ups and deliveries must be optimized to ensure safe handling and proper temperatures. Supermarket food preparation introduces hot-side complexities as consumers look to grocers for home meal replacements. Staff must be trained in safe cooking best practices — such as those provided by the U.S. National Restaurant Association’s (NRA’s) ServSafe® certification course — and cook-and-hold procedures should also follow established HACCP/HARPC plans.

In addition to our proven compression and refrigeration technologies, Emerson solutions address a variety of modern supermarket requirements. These include condensing units with variable-capacity modulation to precisely match refrigeration load requirements and flexible distributed architectures that can augment existing refrigeration systems. We also offer a suite of temperature-probing devices to help grocers automate the recording of prepared food temperatures and assist grocers with food safety and process compliance concerns.

Our powerful facility management, monitoring and control platforms address both existing and emerging food retail complexities. These tools provide near real-time access to critical information to help retailers track, triage and respond to issues pertaining to food quality and safety compliance — in individual stores and across their multi-site networks. In addition, these control platforms utilize alarms, notifications and remote access to provide end-users with continuous building and refrigeration monitoring at any retail location.

Connectivity drives cold chain visibility

Modern food retailers are held to increasingly higher food safety and quality standards. Store operators, consumers and health inspectors all demand greater transparency into the food supply chain and improved visibility of food’s journey from farm to fork. With today’s connected internet of things (IoT) monitoring and tracking infrastructures, operators now have the potential for visibility into each step of food’s journey — and even the possibility for comprehensive cold chain traceability. Emerson provides the refrigeration technologies and IoT-enabled infrastructures to help stakeholders at each point monitor, control and track a variety of conditions necessary for preserving food safety and quality.

 

 

 

Explore the Advantages of Lowering Refrigerant Charges

Andre Patenaude | Director – Solutions Integration,

Emerson’s Commercial and Residential Solution’s Business

The need to reduce refrigerant charges in commercial refrigeration systems is often the focus of environmental regulations and sustainability initiatives shared by many supermarket retailers and operators. The reason is simple: lowering refrigerant charges reduces the potential for leaks and their associated environmental impacts. But there are also more pragmatic operational motivations for lowering refrigerant charges — from improving refrigeration system energy efficiency, performance and reliability to avoiding equipment replacement costs. In part two of a recent RSES Journal article series, I examine some of the leading strategies for reducing the refrigerant charges in existing refrigeration systems.

Implement variable fan speed control

Most centralized direct expansion (DX) systems are designed for peak summer heat and use mechanical head pressure control valves to maintain fixed pressure in the condenser equivalent to 105 °F condensing. In cooler seasonal conditions, this approach creates a considerably oversized condenser, where a substantial portion of the condenser volume is being used to store liquid in order to build pressure up to 105 °F minimum condensing.

A potential fix to remedying this situation is to remove the mechanical head pressure control valve and install a variable-frequency drive (VFD) to control the condenser fan’s speed. Instead of operating with a minimum fixed head pressure, this strategy provides variable head pressure throughout the year. This allows the system to operate with less refrigerant by removing the need to have a “winter charge” to flood the condenser in low ambient conditions.

Note: For operators in northern climates with sustained periods of sub-zero temperatures (-20° F to -30° F), utilizing a flooded head pressure approach may be necessary to keep systems running during those periods.

If you discover that a condenser needs to be replaced, an additional charge reduction can be achieved from implementing a split-condenser design. The approach effectively helps to maintain system pressure by cutting the condenser surface area in half as ambient temperatures drop, creating a net reduction in condenser surface area, which further lowers the system charge. In summer months, when the condenser utilizes every inch of its surface area, excess liquid refrigerant can be stored in a large receiver tank designed to hold both the summer and winter charges. Consider also using a low-condensing approach in combination with an efficient liquid subcooling strategy to achieve additional charge reductions while maximizing system performance, energy efficiency and reliability.

Adopt a looped piping strategy

In conventional centralized DX systems, individual liquid refrigerant and return suction lines are fed from the refrigeration rack to each case in a supermarket — which requires a large refrigerant charge to support the full load of all cases. An alternative to this approach would be to adopt a looped piping strategy by running fewer large lines to designated sections of the store, from which smaller lines branch off to individual cases. For example, instead of running 30 long lines to individual cases, four to five line loops would support key store sections — with much smaller lines branched off these loops to feed the individual cases. In doing so, store operators can reduce piping, lower leak rates, and achieve a significant reduction in refrigerant charge.

Disconnect and re-distribute remote refrigeration loads

Another common centralized DX refrigeration challenge is to provide adequate refrigeration for cases that are located farthest from the machine room. Unless the system is operating perfectly, the liquid refrigerant traveling through those long liquid lines can develop flash gas bubbles by the time it reaches these distant cases. This results in a variety of issues, which can ultimately increase the amount of refrigerant needed and impact case temperatures.

One potential solution is to disconnect these remote cases from their suction group and install segments of distributed equipment to handle them individually. This reduces the refrigerant charge in the centralized DX system and allows it to operate more efficiently. The Copeland™ digital outdoor refrigeration unit, X-Line Series is ideal for servicing these remote cases or supporting new refrigeration requirements, such as walk-in coolers for click-and-collect fulfillment. In addition, the Copeland indoor modular solution provides flexible options for spot merchandizing cases, which could also be disconnected from a DX system.

Transition to distributed architectures

The prospect of large-scale leak events is always a possibility in large DX centralized systems, which can often be charged with up to 4,000 pounds of refrigerant. If even half of that charge were to be emitted in a catastrophic leak, operators would face potential environmental penalties and excessive refrigerant replacement costs. But this centralized approach is no longer the only option for large-supermarket refrigeration. In their place is an emerging variety of distributed architectures designed to lower refrigerant charges, deliver improved energy efficiencies, and operate using lower-GWP refrigerants.

Distributed architectures that utilize Copeland scroll compression technology can deliver significant system efficiencies, particularly when using a low-pressure refrigerant like R-513A. For example, Emerson’s distributed scroll booster architecture is designed to overcome common low-temperature system challenges and leverage R-513A’s low pressure and high efficiency to provide:

  • Lower discharge temperatures and compression ratios: 1.9:1 at -10 °F saturated suction temperature (SST) and 20 °F saturated discharge temperature (SDT)
  • Reduced compressor strain and related maintenance issues
  • Increased overall system efficiency and lifespan
  • Reduced stress on pipes and fittings, which lowers the potential for leaks

All the strategies discussed herein will not only help to lower your refrigerant charge but also deliver a variety of system efficiency and reliability benefits.

Strategies for Maximizing Refrigeration System Efficiencies

Andre Patenaude | Director – Solutions Integration,

Emerson’s Commercial and Residential Solution’s Business

For many supermarket operators, reducing energy spend in their refrigeration systems is a key sustainability objective. But as most refrigeration systems drift from their original commissioned states, they inevitably lose efficiencies over time. In a recent RSES Journal article, I explored some of the root causes of this all-too-common problem and presented proven strategies for maximizing refrigeration system efficiencies.

There is often a domino effect that contributes to declining refrigeration efficiencies: setpoints are changed, mechanical subcooling strategies become ineffective, condensing pressures increase, and overall system energy consumption rises. At the same time, maintaining consistent case temperatures can become a constant struggle — often causing the reliability of these systems to suffer.

But this inefficient, unreliable state neither has to be your status quo, nor does it necessarily mean that it is time to replace your existing refrigeration system. In fact, there are a variety of tools and techniques for taking back control of your supermarket refrigeration system.

Shore up your liquid subcooling strategy

Refrigerant (liquid) subcooling results in denser liquid — which packs more BTUs per pound and maximizes system capacity and performance — and is a strategy utilized within many supermarket refrigeration systems. But because this approach is based on design parameters that account for the hottest anticipated day of the year, it can present challenges in other weather conditions. In some regions, this can represent more than 95 percent of the time

As ambient temperatures drop, the condenser operates more efficiently, thus decreasing the subcooling load requirements. The net effect is that the plate heat exchanger — which acts as an evaporator to cool the refrigerant — is oversized for most of the year. And as the system tries to adapt to changing weather conditions, the liquid quality output can become more erratic and cause flash gas in liquid lines, which can starve the evaporator.

To manage this load variability, system designers often use electronic evaporator pressure regulators (EPRs), which must be properly set to maintain ideal liquid-out temperatures. If not, these conditions can combine to create a perpetual state of fluctuation as the system “hunts” for the liquid quality for which it was designed, resulting in a myriad of system issues with the potential to negatively impact energy efficiency and reliability.

Install electronic expansion valves

Replacing a system’s mechanical expansion valves with electronic expansion valves (EEVs) is the key to helping operators overcome these subcooling challenges and restoring system efficiencies. EEVs are typically located at the inlet of the subcooler to control and modulate the refrigerant flow of the heat exchanger much more effectively, regardless of whether it is the hottest or coldest day of the year. As temperatures and liquid quality fluctuate, EEVs allow a system to run at maximum capacity and deliver the performance advantages for which it was originally designed:

  • Higher BTUs per pound of circulating refrigerant
  • Reduced liquid line size and charge reduction
  • Improved efficiency for energy savings

Note: for optimum control of a subcooling heat exchanger equipped with an EEV, consider using a variable-capacity compressor like the Copeland™ scroll digital compressor or adding a variable-frequency drive (VFD) to a Copeland Discus™ compressor to provide a balanced load approach.

Raise system suction pressures

The higher the system suction pressures are, the lower the associated compressor power consumption will be — particularly in lower-temperature refrigeration systems. For every 1 PSI increase in suction pressure, a compressor’s energy efficiency ratio (EER) is improved by approximately 2%.

Electronic evaporator pressure regulators (EPRs) are commonly used in centralized racks to maintain evaporator temperatures within various suction groups and optimize the suction pressure to its highest possible point based on case demand. To save additional energy, technicians may “float the suction pressure” by allowing it to rise slightly when the lowest temperature case is satisfied. This can only be achieved if the EPRs are properly set.

Low-condensing operation

Another way to offset the inefficiencies of a system designed for the hottest day of the year is to implement low-condensing operation (aka “floating the head pressure”). Instead of artificially keeping head pressures near 105 °F with the use of head pressure control valves, EEVs installed at cases allow systems to float head pressures down as the temperatures drop — typically maintaining temperatures at 10–20 °F above the ambient temperature.

On average, systems can achieve 15–20% EER improvements on compressor performance for every 10 °F decrease in head pressure. EEVs are designed to modulate with fluctuations in capacity and liquid quality to digest flash gas and control superheat. Using this technique, supermarket operators can reliably float system pressures to 70 °F or lower and achieve:

  • 15–20% EER improvements on compressor performance
  • Increased compressor capacity for faster pull-down rates
  • Lower pressure, which reduces system stress
  • Higher system reliability, which lowers total cost of ownership (TCO)

Give your system an efficiency boost

Emerson provides the tools, technologies and expertise to help operators implement efficient liquid subcooling and low-condensing pressure strategies. Our EX series EEVs feature a patented ceramic gate port design that can manage a wide range of liquid quality and condensing pressures — and deliver precise refrigerant control via variable-capacity modulation from 10–100%.

The companion EXD-SH1 or SH2 superheat controller regulates evaporator superheat to optimize system performance, regardless of ambient conditions. Its integrated display allows operators to check a variety of system conditions, such as superheat, percentage of valve opening, pressure and temperature values.

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