Hydrocarbons more applicable than ever in North America

By Elke Milner, Jul 07, 2015, 11:44 3 minute reading

Hydrocarbons aren’t just for light commercial refrigeration, anymore! Presentations at ATMOsphere America highlighted new and emerging applications for hydrocarbon refrigerants in the North American refrigeration industry.

GWP of ultra low temp freezers plummets with hydrocarbons
John Prall of embraco and Richard Bair of Thermo Fisher Scientific jointly presented the application of hydrocarbons in a variable speed ultra low temperature (ULT) freezer, primarily designed for the storage of products in the biomedical, chemical, and other specialty industries. 
While typically ULT freezers operate with a cascade design, operating from -90 to -70°C. In a theoretical simulation comparing a cascade HFC system to a hydrocarbons system using R290 in the first stage and R170 in the second stage, embraco found natural refrigerants to offer a 17% increase in efficiency, while also offering a low GWP alternative. 
Bair reported that the Thermofisher Scientific TSX ultra-low temperature freezer using the full motion inverter compressor from embraco actually achieved significantly higher efficiency gains over the theoretical comparison, reducing energy consumption from 17 to 9 kWhr per day compared to R404A/R508B single-speed designs. In addition to energy savings, the TSX freezer also offers near-silent operation and low vibration.
Also at ATMOsphere America, embraco presented a technomercial highlighting the role HVAC&R plays in the current state of the environment. According to the technomercial, natural refrigerants offer an efficient and cost saving way to reduce environmental impact. The technomercial featured several compressors of embraco’s range for commercial refrigeration plug-in units, emphasising low noise and vibration, a broader range, and significant energy consumption reductions.
Communities cut waste with hydrocarbon-cooled water dispensers
Italian firm Blupura has made waves in Europe with its R290- and R600a-cooled water (both still and sparkling) coolers and fountains, and the company is now bringing this technology to North America, in addition to other markets. 
The company produces only climate friendly water coolers using natural refrigerants to meet a range of needs, from the hospitality industry, to offices, to public dispensers. The community water dispensers save citizens money and assure quality while reducing waste and protecting the environment. 
Variable speed compressors + hydrocarbons = winning combination for supermarkets
Drew Martin, Sales Representative of Secop, Inc. USA presented the company’s experience in achieving efficiency gains in supermarkets using hydrocarbon refrigerants in plug-in cases. The venture began around ten years ago when the compressor manufacturer partnered with cabinet manufacturer AHT and Aldi supermarkets. 
Now, the project experiences less than a one-year return on investment with hydrocarbon refrigerants as well as an 80% reduction in cost of refrigerant. Martin suggested that using variable speed compressors in conjunction with hydrocarbon refrigerants is achieving the best efficiency gains for plug-in units in supermarkets. 
To date, more than 600,000 units have been sold and more than 30,000 stores incorporate hydrocarbon plug-in units. Martin identified a lack of trained maintenance personnel as the biggest barrier to the wider adoption of hydrocarbon plug-in units in supermarkets in North America, and hopes that the industry will learn from best practices in Europe and Asia to fully evaluate the risks and benefits of such technology.


By Elke Milner

Jul 07, 2015, 11:44

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