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COOL-THERM Blue Reef-IMAX Chiller Installation Uses Dock-Water For Cooling In The Heart Of Bristol 

A pioneering cooling system that harnesses dock-water is up and running in the heart of Bristol.

The cooling installation at Blue Reef Aquarium and IMAX 3D Cinema in Bristol has two major claims to fame. It is the site of the first Turbomiser chiller installation in the UK, and it harnesses natural cooling from water drawn from Bristol docks to dramatically increase efficiency.

Ahead of its time, the chiller was installed four years ago as part of a ground-breaking low energy cooling initiative. However, just three weeks after start-up, the company occupying the building closed – and the associated chiller plant was shut down.

Today, however, after three years lying silent in the plant room, the chiller that began the Turbomiser revolution in the UK has been recommissioned and is now up and running serving Bristol’s recently opened Blue Reef Aquarium and IMAX 3D Cinema.

The 500kW plant uses two Turbocor compressors to produce chilled water for cooling the huge salt-water tanks that house Blue Reef’s collection of fish and marine animals.

The chiller is also used to cool the lamps for the centre’s high power IMAX projector, used for spectacular under-water features which take visitors on an immersive 3D journey beneath the waves.

“It is a 24-7 job, and the facility depends completely on the chiller to keep things running”, says Peter Lambert, maintenance manager.

“Without constant cooling, the tanks can quickly change in temperature, increasing the chance of us losing livestock. It is also critical for the IMAX system, as it has to be kept cool to protect the highly valuable lamps from burn-out. A reliable system is therefore absolutely essential.”

He added: “The chiller has performed perfectly since recommissioning. It is an excellent design and very reliable.”

Alex Strong of Cool-Therm, who was responsible for the chiller recommissioning, said: “After four years sitting idle, we simply pressed the button and it fired-up first time. It has run like a dream ever since. It proves the incredible design and resilience of the Turbomiser.”

Dock water is used to help condense refrigerant, boosting the plant’s efficiency and reducing running costs. Water is drawn into the plant room from the nearby dock by two giant pumps at around 10deg C in the winter and around 20deg C in summer.

The chiller is designed to produce chilled water at a constant 6deg C, which is used to cool water from the tanks via a large plate heat exchanger.

The aquarium tanks are served by some 30,000 to 40,000 litres of temperature-controlled water.

“The design was ahead of its time in many ways,” says Alex. “People are only now really waking up to the possibilities of harnessing natural heat sinks, such as ground water, lakes and the like. There are many situations where these opportunities exist.

“In the centre of Bristol alone, there are hundreds of major buildings sited within a few metres of the docks and inland tributaries. They could be benefiting from a free source of cooling - literally on their doorstep.”

He added: “The rise in energy costs makes it more and more attractive to harness such natural sources of cooling. When combined with an already high-efficiency chiller such as the Turbomiser, it is compelling. It can save many thousands of pounds a year in energy costs.”

Since the chiller was installed, Turbomiser has gone on to win a string of awards for its ultra-efficient performance. This culminated recently with landing CIBSE’s top award for low carbon technology, presented at a start-studded event in London.

The Turbomiser is the result of a five-year collaboration between two UK companies, Cool-Therm and Klima-Therm, and Italian manufacturer Geoclima.

As a result of its combination of energy-efficient technologies, optimised and harnessed by a sophisticated control system, the chiller uses between 30 and 50 per cent of the energy required by conventional systems, such as screw and reciprocating compressors.

“We believe Turbomiser is the future of chiller technology,” says Alex. “With more than 60 installations now in the UK, it is quickly replacing conventional screw and reciprocating technology as the mainstream choice for cooling buildings, people and industrial processes.”

One side-effect of using dock water was not foreseen. The heat added to the outgoing water stimulated the growth of mussels, which became so prolific they would block the system. This required manual clearing every few days to keep the pipework clear.

The problem was overcome with lower temperatures associated with the new Turbomiser system, which meant return water was cooler and didn’t spur the naturally occurring molluscs into life.

Email: enquiries@cooltherm.co.uk


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