Sutherland offers ice-making options


VICTORIA, B.C. – An engineer who grew up in Stellarton has made a life from a low-energy ice-making process.

Art Sutherland is co-founder of Accent Refrigeration Systems Ltd., which was launched in 1980 and is based in Victoria, B.C. He has travelled around the world to install more efficient ammonia-carbon dioxide-based cooling systems that reduce energy costs and recover energy for other uses.

Refrigeration is Sutherland’s background, and he has used the skill set to help build and install ever more innovative and versatile refrigeration systems.

Besides hockey and curling rinks, the list of units and services offered include various portable and walk-in units for installation and repair.

“I really like what has transpired over the years,” he said.

Sutherland graduated from Stellarton High School and later earned an honours diploma from the Truro campus of what is now the Nova Scotia Community College.

“I decided to head west in 1976,” he said after having worked for a short time in the area, including time at the Michelin Pictou County tire plant.

He worked on refrigeration for two years at Jasper National Park, and one year for National Sea Products Ltd. in Halifax. When the plant closed, he began working in Edmonton, Alta.

Sutherland’s association with the CO2 ice-making process began nearly 10 years ago when he noticed how much it was being used in Europe. He travelled to Stockholm, Sweden, where he met Jorgen Rogstam, who over the past 20 years has become a world-renowned authority in natural refrigerants with a special passion for CO2 applications.

Sutherland eventually discovered the advantages of the hybrid system of using ammonia to chill CO2 instead of the conventional brine chilling system.

“It was a little slow-going to find where to use the system, but it’s very efficient to pump,” he said. He noted how a conventional process needs a 40-horsepower motor to pump the brine, versus 1.5 horsepower for carbon dioxide. The result has been some examples of heat recovery that can eliminate the need for fossil fuels and includes the complex where he works in Victoria.

It has a 75,000 area that includes offices, a 20-lane bowling alley, restaurant and indoor and outdoor ice rinks. The excess energy that is recovered is transferred to a nearby housing development.

The company recently secured a federal energy grant to develop a sewage heat recovery system where he lives.

Sutherland has shared his skills at the Olympic Winter Games, starting in Salt Lake City, Utah in 2002. He worked at the Winter Games in Korea and is already working on systems being prepared for the next Winter Games in China.

He has spent considerable time in Asia building curling rinks as the sport continues its rapid growth.

“We find curling is growing by leaps and bounds in Asia,” he said. “That’s why they’re starting to win medals.”

One recent pet project was a smaller rink for a hockey goaltender training centre in Brockville, Ont.

Sutherland returns to Pictou County about every two years. He has an interest in the Pictou County Wellness Centre and what efficiencies he could find for it.

“It’s my home area,” he said. “I’d want to make sure it’s working well.”

Art Sutherland stands beside gauges at an operation that applies advanced refrigeration options. (Submitted photo)