Sainsbury’s freezes emissions with liquid nitrogen refrigerated engine

British supermarket chain Sainsbury's has become the first company in the world to trial a refrigerated delivery truck cooled by a liquid nitrogen powered engine, as the retailer works towards its commitment to significantly reduce absolute carbon emissions by 2020.

The new system replaces the traditional diesel engine used to chill the vehicle, harnessing the rapid expansion of liquid nitrogen to deliver zero-emission power and cooling. The three-month trial of the truck, supplied by cooling technology specialists Dearman and its partners, is expected to save up to 1.6 tonnes of CO2 and 37kg of NOx compared to a similar diesel system.

The zero-emission unit will operate from Sainsbury’s Waltham Point depot and will be used to deliver chilled goods to stores in the London area.

Sainsbury’s head of sustainability Paul Crewe said: “As one of Britain’s biggest retailers we really recognise the importance of reducing emissions, which is why we’re working hard to cut carbon emissions by 30% between 2005 and 2020. This trial with Dearman is just one of the innovations we’ve introduced to help us towards this goal. Their zero-emission system is really exciting, to be running a liquid air engine quite literally means our cooling is running on thin air!”

‘Real leadership’

The model is based on the revolutionary invention, the Dearman Engine, which utilises liquid nitrogen to ensure that low-grade or ambient heat can be used as a heat source, eliminating the need for a traditional fuel. In the trial period, Sainsbury’s will replace traditional refrigerated trucks which require two diesel engines, one to power the vehicle and one for the refrigeration unit, with vehicles utilising the Dearman Engine.

Dearman believes that this method will provide a more sustainable solution for refrigeration that could eventually be adopted across the UK’s transport system.

Dearman’s founder and chief executive Toby Peters said: “Sainsbury’s is demonstrating real leadership by embracing cutting-edge British engineering that delivers performance alongside positive environmental impact. The first commercial deployment of Dearman’s zero-emission transport refrigeration system is a significant milestone for the company, for our technology and for our vision to make the world a cleaner, cooler place.

“Demand for cooling is increasing worldwide and new technologies are urgently needed to ensure that growth can be achieved sustainably. The Dearman system is one such technology, and alongside our partners, we’re proud to be debuting it with Sainsbury’s, a company renowned for their respect for the environment.”

Cool initiatives

The trial is the latest in a series of innovations from Sainsbury’s as it ramps up its refrigeration cycle sustainability efforts. The retailer recently announced that it would become the first company in the world to incorporate “closed-loop” natural refrigerant trailer units for its delivery vehicles.

Last year, the retailer utilised ground-source heating technology to collect the heat from the back of its refrigerators to warm up its stores – cutting energy use by more than 30%.

The company – which contributes around 1% of the UK’s total energy use – has also been trialling a Formula One derived technology which can potentially reduce the energy consumed by refrigerators by up to 41.5%.

Researchers have urged the UK Government to establish a lead department dedicated to developing new clean-cold technology, after the ‘Doing Cold Smarter’ report warned that current poor standards of cold storage – combined with a worldwide increase in demand – will raise GHG emissions by more than 1.5 billion tonnes a year within 15 years.

George Ogleby

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