UPDATE: ATMOsphere 2010: hydrocarbons in the spotlight -Part I

By Sabine Lobnig, Oct 05, 2010, 16:13 6 minute reading

In a first article on ATMOsphere 2010, the international workshop on natural refrigerants held last week in Brussels, hydorcarbons21.com gives an overview of first day presentations provided during dedicated sessions on policy, education, retailers and refrigeration issues by representatives from Danfoss, blupura, the German Federal Environment Agency, GTZ and Unilever. + IMAGE GALLERY T

About 170 delegates from 31 different countries gathered between 27 and 28 September 2010 in Brussels, Belgium for ATMOsphere 2010. The first day of the workshop started with a policy session and high-level speakers from United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Technology and Economic Assessment Panel of the Montreal Protocol (TEAP), the European Commission, the United States Environmental Protection Agency and Greenpeace. The speakers agreed that is important to inform developing countries about the option of natural refrigerants.

Daniel Colbourne, Guidelines for the safe use of hydrocarbons, GTZ

Much of the information relating to safe use of hydrocarbons is widely dispersed or difficult to find, hence why GTZ-Proklima has teamed up with TÜV Süd to produce a handbook for engineers, technicians, trainers and policy-makers on the safe use of hydrocarbon refrigerants for climate-friendly cooling. Technicians, manufacturers, suppliers, consultants, end users, etc, can easily use safety issues as an “excuse” to not use hydrocarbons, “an excuse that must be removed”.

When putting together such handbooks, it is important to:
  • Demonstrate that all the information is “there”
  • Ingrain knowledge in technicians, enterprises, etc.
  • Show how to think more broadly, long term, integrate safety concept into all activities
  • Provide information in different languages (handbook to be translated into Chinese and possibly in Spanish, Russian etc)

Mrs Katja Becken, German Federal Environment Agency (UBA)

Based on studies, the UBA has concluded that halocarbon free refrigerants can be used in most applications, providing a great opportunity to reduce emissions. Additional measures are necessary to push the market for natural refrigerants including, the circulation of information and training.

Existing barriers to natural refrigerants include the lack of knowledge, higher Investment costs, concerns regarding safety risks, restrictive legislation and standards and inadequate education of technicians. Solutions to these barriers include the provision of Information to policy makers and users among others, establishing improved comparative tools, focusing on life cycle cost, reducing costs, providing financial support and incentives, providing Information on safety and developing technical solutions, as well as changing the content of teaching, supporting retraining and establishing training centers.

However, HFCs will soon not be called HFCs anymore, but low GWP alternatives. The promotion of halogenated “low“ GWP refrigerants as environmentally sound and safe refrigerants is a potential future barrier to natural refrigerants. Nonetheless, new generation low GWP chemical refrigerants should not be confused with natural refrigerants, Becken maintained before concluding her presentation.

Rene van Gerwen, Unilever

Speaking at the ATMOsphere 2010 dedicated session on retailers, van Gerwen explained that Unilever aims to double its size while reducing its environmental impact. In refrigeration, the two priority areas include ice cream cabinets and industrial refrigeration plants. 20 to 40 % of the total global warming impact of the company’s ice cream supply chain is related to cabinets. To reduce their climate impact Unilever has been rolling out hydrocarbon ice cream cabinets and the company estimates that it will have rolled out about 500,000 hydrocarbon ice cream cabinets by the end of 2010.

Van Gerwen discussed some of the barriers to the widespread use of hydrocarbons for small commercial equipment, including:
  • Availability: In certain regions it is difficult to obtain hydrocarbon gases
  • Service and Maintenance: The lack of qualified service and maintenance
  • Legal restrictions: a) In countries like the US, the use of hydrocarbons is restricted b) Several international standards restrict HC charge quantity in cabinets up to 150g

Jürgen Süss, How to push Natural Refrigerants in the Natural Way, Danfoss

To push natural refrigerants further Jürgen Süss of Danfoss recommended the following approach:
  • Liability: Eliminate liability barriers in a responsible way
  • Technology: 1.Apply minimal refrigerant charge technologies
                              2.Set highest system efficiency standard based on technologies using natural refrigerants
                              3.Enhance safe (and efficient) operation by adding intelligence/electronics to systems

Luca Costantini, Hydrocarbon water coolers - technology and market potential, blupura

Costantini opened his presentation by explaining his company’s eco-friendly philosophy: not only is the cold water produced by the bulpura watercoolers is a cheap, efficient and safe alternative to bottled water, but Blupura is also the first watercoolers manufacturer in the world to use compressors with natural refrigerant gases (R290) with zero impact on global warming. The watercoolers are ideal for anywhere there is a need for large volumes of cold water (e.g. restaurants , hotels, schools, hospitals).

By the end of 2010 the company expects to have supplied approx. 1,000 R290 watercoolers, exporting 75% outside Italy and mainly to Germany, Denmark, Norway and Holland, but also to South Africa and Australia. The watercoolers have received certification from INTERTEK, a worldwide group of testing laboratories for a number of industries and the world's largest testing, inspection and certification company. A blupura watercooler was operating onsite, providing ATMOsphere participants with sparkling and still water.

Volkmar Hasse, The costs involved in HC conversions - experiences from production & commercialisation, GTZ

GTZ Proklima has carried out work on gathering reliable information on the cost of converting to hydrocarbon refrigerants and the associated CO2-eq cost-effectiveness through analysing costs of demonstration projects already carried out and discussing with other manufacturers. The costs associated with the change of refrigerant comprise three aspects, including investment costs (product development, production line, internal training), product costs (materials, safety devices) and in-use cost (energy consumption, refrigerant, technician tooling), with the latter one representing less than 1% of total costs.

The GTZ study was concerned with two different types of products, namely room air conditioners and stand alone commercial refrigeration. The average investment cost per unit has been estimated at $13 for room air conditioners and $11 for stand alone commercial refrigeration. Product costs has been estimated at +$4/unit for converting air conditioners from R22 to R290 (propane) and at $-29/unit for converting air conditioners from R410A to R290. For stand alone commercial refrigeration products, costs have been estimated at +$6/unit when converting from R134a to R290 and at +$1/unit when converting from R404A to R290. Overall, shifting to hydrocarbons has been found to provide excellent cost-effective emissions reduction.

It is thus surprising that hydrocarbons have not been taken up more widely maintained the speaker, though this is anticipated to change. Already GREE Electrical Appliances Inc. (China) is getting ready to produce state of the art R290 split air conditioners. He then closed his presentation by recommending actions that could help bringing natural refrigerants faster to market such as accumulating and publicising economic evidence on the advantages of producing hydrocarbon equipment as well as risk analysis information showing the technical nature of safety issues and available solutions.

All ATMOsphere 2010 presentations are available in the paper section.


By Sabine Lobnig

Oct 05, 2010, 16:13

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