Fresh & Easy to test propane cases in the US

By Sabine Lobnig, Apr 19, 2011, 15:30 3 minute reading

Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market, Tesco’s US subsidiary, will be trialing propane-based self-contained coffin freezer cases in a store expected to open in June 2011, adding to the number of end-users currently testing hydrocarbon technology in the US market.

Supplied by Austrian-based AHT Cooling Systems, each of the self-contained coffin freezer cases will use just 4.5 ounces (127 grammes) of propane (R290) gas, translating to a total of 22.5 ounces (638 grammes) for a typical Fresh & Easy store with five cases.

Employing self contained cases since 2009 - now with R290

Unlike most US retailers that typically use self-contained cold cases merely as spot merchandisers, Fresh & Easy has since 2009 used self-contained coffin freezer cases containing about 9 ounces (255 grammes) of R404A refrigerant. This approach has proven energy efficient, simpler, more flexible and less expensive when retrofitting stores. The retailer has also adopted case controllers, i.e. electronic devices attached to the cold cases that manage everything from temperature, lighting and defrosting to electronic expansion valves, fans and anti-sweat heaters.

Now the retailer is going one step further, and will be trialing the same self-contained AHT coffin cases, but using propane refrigerant instead of R404A in a store that is planned to open in June 2011.

Propane is energy-efficient, has a global warming potential (GWP) of 3, compared to R404A’s GWP of 3,500 and costs only $2 per pound (about €3.1/kilo), as opposed to $10 per pound (about €15.5/kilo) for R404A.

From trials to a wider roll out?

The move by Fresh & Easy will add to the experience gathered in the US when it comes to using hydrocarbons. Other trials with hydrocarbon technology for retail food refrigeration in the US are being conducted by Ben & Jerry’s (Unilever), and Nestle.

End users and retailers have limited themselves to trials when it comes to the use of hydrocarbons in the US, as for applications other than industrial process refrigeration their use is not yet authorised under the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) programme. However, there are exemptions to this restriction for small volume producers of substitutes, and in cases where end-use equipment is being test-marketed or deployed for research and development.

However, a proposal that would render hydrocarbons acceptable under SNAP was issued in May 2010, with the final rule expected later this year. Given final approval by the EPA, Fresh & Easy could eventually use self-contained propane coffin cases in all new stores.

About Fresh & Easy

A subsidiary of United Kingdom-based retailer Tesco, Fresh & Easy operates 168 stores in California, Arizona and Nevada and opened its first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certified store last year. The company has also joined the California Climate Action Registry and The Climate Registry to disclose its greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2010, Fresh & Easy opened a store in Southern California employing a cascade refrigeration system with natural refrigerant CO2. The store earned a silver certification award from the US EPA GreenChill Partnership by meeting benchmarks for cutting refrigerant emissions and decrease the impact on the ozone layer and climate change. More recently Fresh & Easy became the grocer with the most GreenChill certified stores in the US, with a total of eight stores recognised through the programme. 


By Sabine Lobnig

Apr 19, 2011, 15:30

Related stories

Sign up to our Newsletter

Fill in the details below