ATMOsphere Europe 2015: end users ask technology providers to close ‘gap’ in the natural refrigerant market

By Janaina Topley Lira, Mar 25, 2015, 09:58 6 minute reading

On the second day of ATMOsphere Europe 2015 the Consumer Goods Panel gathered several members of the Refrigerants Naturally! Initiative, who presented on their success in placing HFC-free equipment on the market. For example Red Bull has placed 543,000 hydrocarbon (HC) ECO Coolers, and in 2014 achieved 100% HC procurement, except in Japan. Presenting a global perspective on market trends in the food retail and service sector, Nina Masson of shecco predicted a “growing appetite” for n

Organised on the 16-17 March, ATMOsphere Europe 2015 heard from leading industry players in the natural refrigerant market. Presenters from the Refrigerants Naturally! initiative used the event as a platform to call on component manufacturers to fill the technology gaps in the natural refrigerant market. For example, The Coca Cola Company will not meet their target to achieve 100% natural refrigerant procurement by the end of this year, due a lack in CO2 compressors for small equipment, while Red Bull has not yet been able to place any hydrocarbon ECO Coolers in Japan.
This year about 600,000 commercial compressors will not be bought using R134a, but we buy 1.2 million pieces of equipment every year, so I am making a call to compressor manufacturers to help us,” said Antoine Azar, The Coca Cola Company.
HCs gain momentum in the food retail & food service sector
Providing and overview of the global and policy market trends in natural refrigerants outside Europe, shecco’s Deputy Managing Director, Nina Masson said that in North America “we can expect that with upcoming regulations and standards, is that the number of light commercial hydrocarbon systems will increase.” The approval of HCs in six AC&R applications including stand alone commercial refrigerators and freezers will certainly help to cement this trend.
In China the national government strategy for natural refrigerants (HCFC Phase-out Management Plan) in Room Air Conditioning (RAC) foresees the deployment of hydrocarbon technology. Further east, in Japan, since 2014 R290 cabinets have been available and placed in 30 stores by convenience store operator SAVE ON.
Other hydrocarbon data presented by Masson included the following: 
  • US: Unilever’s Ben & Jerry’s had 4,588 propane (R290) freezers by end-2013, Red Bull has committed to 100% HC procurement, and PespsiCo to only HFC-free coolers, vending machines and fountain dispensers.
  • China: 400,000 hydrocarbon stand alone cabinets, 320,000 hydrocarbons ice cream freezers, and 2,500 HC bottle coolers & vending machines
  • Europe: McDonald’s has deployed the following propane refrigeration equipment: 3,811 meat freezers, 2,802 frozen fry dispensers, and 1,614 blended ice machines
Red Bull’s ECO Coolers suitable for all climates, even the tropics
Active in 166 countries, Red Bull’s cooler fleet is 1,000,000 units. More than 50% of those units already use R600a. 
In his presentation, Red Bull’s Global Purchasing Manager, Juergen Brenneis, kicked things off by showing a promotional video aimed at raising awareness of the benefits of Red Bull’s new energy efficient ECO Coolers. These units use up to 45% less energy than previous standard coolers, and feature energy saving features such as: LED lighting, energy efficient fans, energy management devices, night mode devices, intelligent controllers and high performance insulating glass.
Brenneis went on to look at the performance on hydrocarbons in point of sale equipment, in order to address concerns that HCs are not as efficient in tropical conditions. Working in conjunction with Liebherr, Red Bull tested the energy consumption of an R600a, 370L, Mega Glass Door Cooler using an embraco EMT644Y compressor. The unit was tested at different temperatures and compared to R134a the units performed as follows:
  • 25°C: R600a used 16% less energy than the R134a unit
  • 38°C: R600a used 20% less energy than the R134a unit
  • 43°C: R600a used 21% less energy than the R134a unit
With this product we have proven that for us, for important placements like Greece, the Middle East, South of Croatia or even Spain, that it is definitely no issue at all to place hydrocarbon coolers, also in non air conditioned places,” said Brenneis.
Annually Red Bull procures around 200,000 coolers and in 2014 purchased only hydrocarbon coolers, except in Japan. According to Brenneis, Red Bull faces a number of difficulties in Japan, including the negative perception of hydrocarbons and problems sourcing hydrocarbon compressors and components, cooler service partners, hydrocarbon refrigerant, and training.
We need compressor suppliers to help us to get enough availability of hydrocarbon compressors for Japan,” announced Juergen Brenneis.
Greenpeace warns of new dangers from new f-gases
Wolfgang Lohbeck presented Greenpeace’s initiatives against f-gases since 1992 and its active contribution to Refrigerants, Naturally!. As explained by Lohbeck Greenpeace’s campaign against f-gases was aimed at demonstrating the redundancy of fluorinated refrigerants. 
I am probably the person working for the longest time within my organisation continuously without interruption on f-gases, from the mid 80s until a year or so ago,” said Lohbeck.
In Greenpeace’s long history of working on f-gases one of their greatest successes was their involvement in the development of the Greenfreeze, hydrocarbon refrigerator, the first CFC and HFC-free fridge, demonstrating the needlessness of f-gases in household refrigeration. To date over 700,000,000 million units have been placed worldwide.
Looking at why there is a need to eliminate f-gases Lohbeck commented that while “the Montreal Protocol has been successful in phasing out CFCs, it has been equally successful in phasing in f-gases.” HFCs are the fastest growing greenhouse gases (GHGs) and it is estimated that in 2050 HFC emissions could be equivalent to 20% of CO2 emissions under a business as usual scenario (BAU).
Lohbeck added that on the measuring of CO2 equivalents the chemical industry clearly won a political victory because the lifetime of HFCs is relatively short compared to CO2, the lifetime of most HFCs used today is around 20 years, nevertheless the time we are calculating their impact on is 100 years.”
Since 2006 the new f-gases, called HFOs have been introduced to the market. On this topic Lohbeck pointed to the growing resistance in the car industry to the quasi-monopoly of the f-gas industry, talking about the positive results some OEM (original equipment manufacturers) have achieved using CO2 in mobile air conditioning.
There is further hope for change thanks to Refrigerants Naturally! which is demonstrating the viability of natural refrigerants in point of sale equipment, and working within the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) to bring their know-how and experience to a wider audience.
Assisting developing countries to achieve and sustain compliance with the Montreal Protocol
UNEP’s Programme Officer, Ezra Clark, presented on the UNEP DTIE OzonAction Branch, which provides direct practical assistance to countries to help them phase out HCFCs. UNEP is involved in the implementation of 100 HCFC Phase Out Management Plans (HPMPs), through which there is the opportunity to influence the technology choice and move towards natural refrigerant solutions, thanks to Decision XIX/6 and XXI/9.
UNEP however faces considerable challenges in explaining the different technologies. “If I was speaking to a group in developing countries, in some cases when you mention natural refrigerants the immediate reaction is ‘no these are dangerous, we can’t use them’,” said Ezra. To overcome this type of blanket refusal, developing countries need corporate models from developed countries, local champions of natural refrigerants, proof of commercial viability and use, and capacity building and training.
Ezra concluded by explaining UNEP’s supporting role in the Refrigerants, Naturally! partnership.


By Janaina Topley Lira

Mar 25, 2015, 09:58

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