Whether it is a food manufacturer following a plant ammonia leak, a food supplier relocating its freezer to a larger site, or an asphalt plant facing a potential temperature crisis, and emergency — or even a planned, temporary disruption — can disrupt business as usual. Companies in the process industries should consider their cooling and cold storage needs before demand strikes to keep their businesses thriving and minimize losses.
Fortunately, rental process cooling equipment — industrial chiller coolers, heavy-duty air conditioners, low-temperature air handlers, modular cooling towers, water-cooled chillers, dehumidifiers and the like — is available to help mitigate issues quickly. To successfully manage emergency cooling services, however, just having access to temporary equipment is not enough. To effectively weather an unplanned equipment outage, you also must understand the risks, develop a plan that considers unique factors at your site, be prepared to act swiftly, and be flexible and hands-on.
Identify and Understand the Risks
It is essential to consider the impact should your business experience a cooling system or equipment failure, particularly if there is a planned maintenance project or an unexpected natural disaster.
Should a piece of cooling equipment or entire system fail, it can affect not only operations but also present safety risks for employees and the surrounding community. For example, an energy company in Fort McMurray, Alberta, faced a potential temperature-management crisis at its tank farm, which blended and diluted bitumen. If the material is not adequately cooled, it can create a potential health-and-safety hazard at the site and in the surrounding community. To resolve the issue quickly, the company brought in 4,000 tons of cooling powered by 6 MW of power in a short time frame. The new system could cool 192,000 bbd of diluted bitumen to below 100°F (38°C), compared to a previous high of 134°F (57°C). This allowed the energy company to get the tanks back to full capacity. The cooling power brought the blending process back down to acceptable temperatures, keeping the plant and community safe.
It is important to identify valid cooling solutions in the event of an unplanned or planned incident. As part of your site’s incident prevention and preparedness program, bring in an expert for a site evaluation to assess the risks, calculate the space and comprehend the logistics of moving temporary equipment in and out of the site. Cooling services professionals can help map out the scope of the project, model conditions, simulate potential solutions, provide cost estimates and secure local permitting.
Create a Contingency Plan
A Texas Gulf Coast chemical manufacturer experienced a failure of a critical chiller at its site, causing massive production shortfalls. Historically, the manufacturer responded by getting the production line up and running with a replacement generator and chiller. After its most recent outage — and because the site had developed a temporary cooling contingency plan 18 months prior — the chemical producer was able to swiftly mobilize. The temporary cooling supplier was able to deliver a predetermined list of equipment, including two 200-ton chillers, two 500-kW generators, two 1,240-gal fuel tanks and all the supporting accessories.
Additionally, hooking up the interconnections for the process was expedited due to the prior planning and documentation. Roles had previously been assigned to personnel, so everyone knew what needed to be done, maximizing response time. Preplanning allowed the production facility to get up and running faster than any other previous failure.
Some cooling services vendors can offer a range of equipment and the ability to substitute equipment such as chillers. This allows processors access to temporary or emergency cooling services as necessary in order to achieve the desired results.
Equally important as developing a plan is testing and drilling it regularly to ensure that the plan does not need to be updated or adjusted.
When Five Star Fish, part of the 2 Sisters Food Group, embarked on a cold store refurbishment project, it was essential to design and implement a complete temporary cooling scheme to keep tens of thousands of pounds of frozen food at stable temperature. Together with a cooling services provider, they acted quickly to design a temporary cooling scheme, installing and commissioning within 72 hours of the initial inquiry. The quick turnaround allowed the company to thoroughly test before switching off their equipment, allowing Five Star Fish to fast-track the refurbishment program.
We live in an imperfect world where an unforeseen issue can arise even with the best-laid plans. That is why it is essential to have a cooling services plan and access to a range of equipment. It may be necessary to substitute equipment as necessary in order to achieve the desired results.
For example, Five Star Fish used a combination of equipment to produce its desired results. The equipment included very low temperature fluid chillers combined with low temperature air-handling units and bespoke ancillary equipment — all powered by two diesel generators. This combination of equipment allowed a total shutdown of the permanent cooling plant as part of the company’s 460,000- ft3 cold store upgrade and maintenance program.
The equipment flexibility enabled the company to maintain the internal temperature required to keep their fish products in perfect condition while avoiding business disruption.
Be Hands On
Keep a close eye on the temperature inside the space and note any temperature or humidity changes throughout the entire course of the project. Rigorous testing helps ensure constant temperatures. Have a well-monitored operation of cooling production rooms. Onsite and remote teams should monitor temperatures and equipment continuously.
Continuous, remote monitoring of all equipment and relaying of critical information — pump performance, fuel levels and consumption rates, load monitoring and diagnostic checks, for instance — are essential. Any alerts on undesirable conditions should be sent immediately to the engineering team if response is required.
Very low temperature chillers provide a cooling solution when space is a premium.
In conclusion, issues during a planned or unplanned event always arise even with the best-made plans. When the worst happens, be prepared to act swiftly and flexibly.
Another key step is to debrief following an incident: Meet with the team to identify lessons learned and incorporate those findings into the contingency plan to adjust accordingly. It is essential to debrief when the incident is fresh on the team’s mind to more easily recognize issues and opportunities as well as identify ways to improve the process for future challenges. Keep asking questions until the business has identified all the potential crisis points before a planned or unplanned temperature-sensitive event. Successfully managing the cooling emergency saves time and money and keeps the business running smoothly and efficiently. PC