Star’s oldest refrigeration plant still going strong almost 40 years on

  • Roddy McDonald & Calum McKenzie reminiscing the last 40 years

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Astrid Prado

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The UK’s largest industrial refrigeration engineering company Star Refrigeration is celebrating a long lasting relationship with its customer Associated Seafoods – after fitting its industrial cooling system in 1979. The plant has been running 24/7 with no cooling loss for almost 40 years, which is a huge achievement for both companies and a credit to Star’s technology.

In 1979, Star Refrigeration provided the company with two refrigeration packages for their cold storage and production facilities located on the Moray Firth coast of Scotland, in Buckie. For Star Refrigeration, 1979 marks an era as this represents the oldest operational plant in Star’s history. And to add a time perspective, here are a few things you might remember about that year: Margaret Thatcher was elected prime minister, Sony introduced the first ‘Sony Walkman’ and YMCA was in the UK music charts.

Star Refrigeration’s oldest cooling plant might seem a relic from the past to the untrained eye, but the proud owners will tell you a different story. Built to last, each package consists of a single compressor, LPR, four way valve with patented reverse cycle defrost technology, an evaporator and twin circuit condenser. This industrial system is true Star quality through and through. “It’s a great system, it still hits -25C in the cold store”, says Roddy McDonald, Associated Seafoods Maintenance Manager in charge of routine checks to the system.

“I’ve been here for around 27 years, and the system was already in place when I started. It is always running – 24/7. We worked out that it’s been running for 324,342hours non-stop” Roddy adds.

A leading supplier of some of the finest seafood caught right on its doorstep, Associated Seafoods has been in business since 1913. Experiencing steady growth over the years, the company now owns a specialist group of seafood companies comprising Moray Seafoods, Lossie Seafoods and GlenIsla Shellfish. The company is internationally recognised for the premium quality of their langoustines, prawns, crabs, scallops, shellfish, and the famous Scottish smoked salmon, The Pride of Scotland.

With such a long-standing relationship, the two companies have worked together effortlessly as they both grew substantially to become leaders in their respective markets. Calum McKenzie, said, “This is one of the first systems built using the low pressure receiver. During defrost, refrigerant flow is reversed, with hot gas flowing to the evaporator where the latent head of condensation is used to melt ice formation. This process has now been proven to be an exceptionally efficient way of defrosting and it is used in the most modern and energy-efficient refrigeration systems today.”

The systems initially ran on ozone-depleting R502. Although very common in the 1970s and 1980s, it is now illegal to use HCFCs, and the system has since been converted to a non ozone-depleting and low global warming potential refrigerant. Reliable refrigeration over the past 38 years has enabled Associated Seafoods to focus solely on what they are best at, allowing it to grow to employ over 150 people in their factory in Buckie alone. 

Despite running for almost 40 years, Roddy MacDonald is confident Star’s system can keep going for another decade, “as long as it is kept as well looked after as it is now, it could keep going for another 10 years, easy.”

 “We are hoping to expand in the near future and continue our relation with Star Refrigeration. For me, there’s never been anybody but Star to work with”, said Stuart Gibson, Operations Director of Associated Seafoods.

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