Climate Change and Cold Chain Logistics Industry Adaptive Solutions by vervo middle east in the UAE for logisitcs services

Climate Change and Cold Chain Logistics Industry: Adaptive Solutions

Food, beverages, medicines, electronics, chemicals, and more—the cold chain sector is vast, and it plays a vital role in preserving and transporting refrigerated cargo around the world.

However, traditional refrigeration and cooling systems used in cold chains are highly energy-intensive. Conventional cold chain solutions rely heavily on fossil fuels and greenhouse gas-emitting equipment. 

With the growing impacts of climate change and the need for more sustainability in supply chains, it is noticeable how the logistics sector is increasingly shifting towards adaptive solutions in the cold chains, particularly in countries with strict sustainability agendas like the UAE, which lay the groundwork for cold chains that are clean, green, and ready to withstand our inevitably changing climate. 


Vervo Middle East’s team has explored in this article some of these adaptive solutions that create more eco-friendly, resilient cold chains:

  • Energy-efficient refrigeration systems;
  • Insulation technologies;
  • Green packaging solutions;
  • Waste heat recovery.


01. CO2 Refrigeration Systems

CO2 refrigeration systems, also known as transcritical carbon dioxide systems, are gaining popularity in the cold chain logistics industry due to their environmental benefits and operational efficiency. So, what is unique about CO2 systems?

✅CO2 operates above its critical point (31°C and 73.8 bar) in transcritical cycles, adapting efficiently to varying ambient temperatures. This is particularly useful with the temperature fluctuations that climate change brings, especially in regions like the UAE and KSA.

✅The systems excel in heat reclamation applications. How? The heat produced during the refrigeration process can be repurposed for space heating, underfloor heating, or heating water. The heat reclamation process can significantly improve the overall energy efficiency of warehousing facilities.

✅ Advanced CO2 systems incorporate subcooling and ejector technology. Ejectors can convert the energy of the gas expelled from the expansion process to increase the pressure of the vapor entering the compressor, thereby reducing the work required by the compressor.

✅CO2 is non-flammable and non-toxic, which makes it safer to handle than many synthetic refrigerants. Moreover, CO2 systems are designed to operate at higher pressures. This feature has led to the development of robust containment technologies like high-strength stainless steel piping and advanced welding techniques, which reduce the likelihood of leaks.


02. Cryogenic Refrigeration


Cryogenic refrigeration systems utilize extremely cold substances—liquid nitrogen (LN2) or liquid carbon dioxide (LCO2)—to provide rapid cooling and freezing capabilities. Some distinct features to know about cryogenic refrigeration are:

✅The extremely low temperatures of LN2 (-196°C) and LCO2 (-78.5°C) enable quick freezing. Fast freezing creates smaller ice crystals that maintain cellular integrity and texture in food products.

✅The systems are particularly useful for their portability and decentralized application. They do not require the complex infrastructure associated with traditional refrigeration systems, making them ideal for on-site cooling and remote applications.

✅Cryogenic systems are often used in an on-demand capacity; they can be activated only when needed, which avoids the continuous energy draw of mechanical refrigeration systems.

✅The lifecycle of cryogenic substances can be managed in a closed-loop system. For instance, after LN2 or LCO2 has been used for cooling, it returns to a gaseous state and can be recaptured and reliquefied.


03. Biodegradable Insulators


Green packaging solutions, like biodegradable insulators, are another way to adapt to climate change within the cold chain logistics industry. Biodegradable insulators typically require less energy to produce than synthetic insulators and can decrease waste management costs as they can be composted rather than sent to landfills. Moreover, they can match the thermal insulation properties of traditional petroleum-based foams. Examples of biodegradable insulation solutions include:

Mushroom Packaging: This type of packaging is made from mycelium, the root structure of mushrooms, and agricultural waste such as corn stalks or husks. Mycelium-based packaging is cultivated to fit precise shapes and sizes, offering custom protection akin to synthetic foams. It is compostable, breaking down in a matter of weeks in the right conditions, and does not produce toxic byproducts.

Cornstarch Insulation: Derived from corn grain, cornstarch has been used to create biodegradable packing peanuts and custom-shaped insulation. When used in packaging, cornstarch material can be dissolved in water after use and is non-toxic, presenting minimal environmental hazards.


04. Recyclable Gel Packs


Recyclable and biodegradable gel packs are another eco-friendly innovation in the cold chain logistics industry, with several uses:

✅Gel packs made from recyclable materials, e.g., recyclable plastics, can be reprocessed, thus reducing the volume of waste.

✅Some gel packs contain gels made from natural substances, e.g., cellulose, that degrade over time without leaving harmful residues. 

✅Recyclable gel packs maintain temperature as effectively as traditional gel packs and can be reused multiple times.


05. Vacuum-Insulated Panels (VIPs)


Vacuum-insulated panels (VIPs) are a sophisticated insulation technology that offers superior thermal resistance in the cold chain logistics industry. How?

✅VIPs consist of a core material that is evacuated from the air and sealed in a high-barrier envelope. The vacuum eliminates gas conduction and convection, leading to thermal conductivities that can be up to 10 times lower than traditional insulation materials, such as polystyrene or polyurethane foam.

✅Because VIPs have superior insulating properties, they can be much thinner than traditional insulation while providing the same or better thermal resistance. This is particularly valuable in transport containers and packaging, where volume is often a limiting factor.

✅They can be tailored to various shapes and sizes, allowing for flexibility in design and application. They can be used in the walls of refrigerated shipping containers, within thermal boxes for pharmaceuticals, or in any application where space and thermal performance are critical.

✅When undamaged and properly sealed, VIPs maintain their performance over a very long time, often the operational lifespan of the container or appliance they insulate.

Indeed, the main challenges with VIPs include their higher initial cost compared to traditional insulators and the need to protect them from punctures, as any breach in the vacuum seal significantly reduces their insulating capacity.


06. Phase Change Materials (PCMs)


Speaking of thermal resistance, phase change materials (PCMs) are another solution that is worth mentioning. PCMs are used to maintain cargo temperature-controlled environments during transport.

These are reusable substances that absorb and release thermal energy during the process of melting and freezing (phase change).  They work by absorbing excess heat as they melt (change from solid to liquid) and releasing heat as they freeze.

PCMs can reduce reliance on active cooling systems, e.g., refrigeration units. Moreover, PCMs can be incorporated into packaging, such as liners or panels, or integrated into the structure of refrigerated transport units.

Various materials can be used as PCMs, including salt hydrates, paraffins, and bio-based substances.  When used in conjunction with VIPs, they create an even more efficient thermal barrier. 


07. Waste Heat Recovery Systems


Waste heat recovery systems, like the economizer, capitalize on the byproducts of refrigeration processes. It is a smart approach to energy conservation in the cold chain logistics sector. How does it work?

Refrigeration and cooling systems, particularly in large-scale operations, generate substantial amounts of waste heat. The systems are designed to capture this thermal byproduct and recycle it within the warehousing facility's operations.

Heat exchangers are the core component of a waste heat recovery system. It transfers the waste heat from the refrigeration unit's condenser to a medium, often water or air, that can be repurposed.

Re-uses can include warming the storage facility or preheating water for industrial processes or domestic use. This solution doesn’t only reduce operational costs; it can also significantly reduce the cold storage facility's carbon footprint.

Sustainable Cold Chain Solutions With Vervo Middle East (UAE)

As we have seen, there are many adaptive solutions emerging to create more sustainable and resilient cold chains in the face of climate change. It is undeniable that the logistics sector works towards reducing environmental impacts, especially in countries with strict environmental regulations, like the UAE. 

As a leading logistics provider operating locally and worldwide, we are continuously implementing new solutions to make our cold chain services more efficient and adaptive. Our operations at Vervo Middle East are in line with the UAE's sustainability agenda.

Looking for a sustainable cold chain solution? Our global logistical experts can provide advice to help you meet your business goals. We help you access extensive temperature-controlled logistical services in the UAE and over 120 countries.


Request your free, customized quote today! Let's connect:

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