UCLL students learn the tricks of the trade with a cooling system from Technics!

Where can you find Colruyt Group's cooling units? The logical answer is of course: in one of our stores or central buildings.  An observant eye will however also spot a green Technics sticker on the propane chiller used at the UCLL college!

Pioneers in Belgium

How does such a cooling unit end up there? To answer that question, we need to go back in time. Bram Neckebroeck: "We got in contact with the University Colleges Leuven-Limburg or UCLL years ago when we started working with natural, flammable refrigerants. We were the first to do so in Belgium and had to find appropriate training for our technicians. Contrary to countries such as the Netherlands and Great Britain, such training was yet not available here at the time. Indirectly, we got in touch with UCLL. They were the first in our country to develop training on that type of refrigerants."

Drawing inspiration from abroad

Walter Reulens and his college department gave shape to the training. Walter: "We have been working on the use of CO₂ as a refrigerant for about 13 years. We also contributed to European projects on low-GWP (global warming potential) refrigerants. In that respect, we developed e-learnings that are available in 14 languages. We noted that the use of propane as a refrigerant was on the rise and therefore decided to also use it."

"For the training sessions on flammable refrigerants, we drew inspiration from the United Kingdom. We also made inquiries in the Netherlands, where it is compulsory to complete special training before being allowed to work on a 5-kg propane installation. We do not have such large industrial installations here. The largest propane plant in our lab - a 1.2-kg unit - is one that we got from Colruyt Group Technics."

From Halle to Limburg

The roll-out of the cooling units running on natural refrigerants was preceded by extensive testing and research. Bram: "At a test installation in Halle, models of different brands and capacities were reviewed. It is one of those installations that is on display in Houthalen. The model in question has too small a capacity for our stores, but it is ideal for practising. When the UCLL decided to expand their lab a few years ago, we decided to donate the propane chiller to the training programme."

Win-win situation

Walter: "The installation donated is a great addition to our collection of cooling and heating installations. From small applications such as propane-powered refrigerators for restaurants, to entire CO₂-based supermarket installations. We use these for training technicians in the field, but our students following the professional bachelor programme in electromechanics also use them. They learn how it operates, what the special safety features are, how to safely remove the propane and put it back on, etc. So we go way beyond pure theory, the trainings are very practice-oriented."

"Of course, this also works to our own advantage. Thanks to this partnership, students come into contact with Technics. The training attracts many people from Antwerp, a region where cold-storage engineers are in high demand - more than anywhere else. The fact that our name already rings a bell when students enter the labour market, is a nice bonus.", Bram concludes.

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