Our mission was clarified in 2010, as well as our objectives for 2015:
- Become the leader in cheesemaking for ethnic products by 2015
- Become a model in environmental performance by taking advantage of available technologies for " pollution prevention ", " eco-efficiency " and " sustainable development "
" Our message is clear, environment performance is at the centre of our attention ", said Mr. Alain Marchand, M.Eng., Plant Manager at La Fromagerie Polyethnique. It is with two major projects that achieving the environmental objective is possible. First, a particularly original system to control the ambient temperature has been set up in 2010. Heating and air conditioning of the building is achieved through a closed network of "mixed water" and 4 heat pumps. In the production area, the pumps provide heat or coolness to the ventilators though exchangers. In the shipping and storage areas, heat is transferred by pumps to the concrete floors by an underground pipe system, while fresh air is provided by the ventilation system.
Another important feature of the ambient temperature control system is that all ventilators are connected to a system of Luba solar panels and are equipped with heat wheels, which reduces the need for new thermal energy.
During the long periods of summer heat, air conditioning is essential to make sure mixed water does not reach the upper functional temperature limits. That is why additional actions were taken, such as:
- Serpentine exchangers were installed in the wastewater basins
- Plate heat exchanger was installed on the cold water supply to preheat the washing water
The heat exchanger serpentine installed in the wastewater basins has a dual role, since in cooling the mixed water, it helps to warm the purification basins, thus increasing the metabolic activity of the bacterial flora, and the effectiveness of the biological treatment.
In contrast, several methods have also been developed for the winter season such as:
- Heat exchanger plate to recover heath from the gas compressors in refrigeration
- Serpentine exchangers and double jacket to recover the heat generated by the whey during production
- Heat exchanger tube for supplemental heating using the steam network
The heat from refrigeration compressors has proved amply sufficient to heat all areas of the plant, including an outdoor snow melting slab located at the truck reception area. Mr. Marchand explains that observations made at the end of the first project made us aware of the extent of excess heat we have, which means two positive things for us:
- Systems in place to recover heat are efficient
- We have a significant amount of energy available for other applications
Now that the heat requirements are amply met, we have to see to our refrigeration needs, which will grow over the years. This brings us to the second project, which is a unique concept in Canada, called "EcoCute". It consists a heat pump that works with CO2 in supercritical phase as a refrigerant. "This equipment is not only safe for the environment because it does not use the usual refrigerant compounds, but it is a real gem in terms of energy" says Mr. Marchand.
To put it simply the EcoCute system uses the incredible capacity CO2 has to store energy when it is subjected to abnormal pressure conditions. As for a normal refrigeration cycle, a compressor increases the pressure of the refrigerant gas, which produces heat that is transmitted by a water heating loop. As the gas expands, it cools rapidly, and the cold is transmitted to a cooling circuit. For example, to match the performance of the hot side of the EcoCute, 105,000 liters of propane would be required to produce the same amount of hot water at the same temperature. From an environmental perspective, this equipment has helped reducing atmospheric emissions by 155 tons of CO2 equivalent.
Implementing this process was a first in Canada, La Fromagerie Polyethnique decided to break the ice with the following objectives in mind:
- Meet 100% of its hot water needs (instead of steam)
- Meet about 66% of its cooling needs, including for new processing equipment to increase production capacity and to maintain the mixed water loop below critical operating temperatures in summer
- Improve its energy balance (energy per kg of cheese product)
The energy balance anticipated for 2011-2012 estimated a decline of 15.8% in kWh, of which 59.9% in propane use only.
"At this level it is not only a question of competitiveness, it truly is a transformation of our impact on our surroundings... Some cheese factories have approached us to see if we were open to talk about our experience, and we have accepted glady, sharing our knowledge is also part of our mission", says Mr. Marchand.