Liquid air engine delivers clean, sustainable cold storage

Signal of change / Liquid air engine delivers clean, sustainable cold storage

By Gwyneth Marcelo / 13 Oct 2016

Our present-day technology for transporting perishable foods is not sustainable. The transport refrigeration unit (TRU) on a refrigerated container consumes up to 20% of a truck’s diesel fuel, emits 29 times as much particulate matter and 6 times as much nitrous oxide as a modern propulsion engine.

Dearman’s ground-breaking liquid air transport refrigeration system (TRS) would reduce the environmental impact of cold storage in transit. When replacing a conventional diesel TRU, Dearman’s TRS reduces overall engine PM emissions by over 90% and NOx emissions by over 70%. It also reduces CO2 emissions by eliminating the need for idling and is found to be a quiet solution.

Interest and resources to support Dearman’s technology are growing. Park Vale Capital’s £16 million investment in January 2016, and the company was awarded £6 million in UK government grant funding in September. In July, UK grocer Sainsbury’s became the first company to trial the liquid nitrogen delivery trucks.

So what?

Were it to reach scale, Dearman’s liquid air engine could completely redefine how we harness cold in an ever warmer world. Using the transport refrigeration system to increase cold chain access in rural production zones could dramatically reduce food supply chain losses, which amount to hundreds of millions of tonnes of fresh food each year in India.

Clean cold innovations are critical for Asia’s crowded port-cities, where the growing middle class increasingly demands fresh, perishable food, putting pressure on insufficient cold chain capacity. To meet the cold chain shortfall with existing refrigeration technology would be to exacerbate grave problems of air and noise pollution.

One of Dearman’s growth challenges is the development of a liquid air supply chain to ensure consistent availability of its fuel source. In the UK, willing collaborators, Hubbard and Air Products supply liquid nitrogen; finding these collaborators in larger, international markets might present a challenge. One fuel source could be waste cold generated as a by-product from the regasification process for imported liquid natural gas, but this would likely require substantial infrastructure investment.

At the very least, viable clean cold technologies raise awareness about the need to address emissions from refrigeration and drive a new vision for the sector.

This signal of change was spotted as part of Disrupting Food Logistics, a multi-stakeholder collaborative endeavour to build the sustainable zero-waste food supply chains of the future, drawing on innovations from across the globe.

For more information, please read the Call to Action and reach out to Gwyneth Fries, Senior Sustainability Advisor at Forum for the Future.



What might the implications of this be? What related signals of change have you seen?

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