Supplies of industrial carbon dioxide are becoming so low that it's motivating some food processors to switch to liquid nitrogen for cryogenic freezing, according to an equipment supplier exhibiting at the International Production & Processing Expo ( IPPE).
Carbon dioxide is used to freeze individually quick frozen (IQF) products and to chill ground meat prior to forming into shapes like patties and nuggets. However, supplies have been impacted by various factors, principally a drop in processing of ethanol for motor fuel. Industrial carbon dioxide is a byproduct of ethanol production; when the pandemic lowered the demand for motor fuel, supplies of carbon dioxide plunged.
Switching from carbon dioxide to more plentiful liquid nitrogen is an option, but requires adjustments in handling and application. Liquid nitrogen is about three times colder, and unlike carbon dioxide, does not solidify
Messer LLC is rolling out at IPPE a wave impingement freezer designed to use liquid nitrogen. It is one way Messer is responding to the carbon dioxide supply situation.
Replacing carbon dioxide with nitrogen has "caught on like wildfire because of CO2 supply issues," says Dan Morgan, Messer's director for food and beverage markets. He said one customer told him that they are getting only about 25% of the industrial CO2 they need.
Another customer, a major poultry processor, found that switching to nitrogen enabled them to double production on an IQF line while using fewer floor workers.