Brazilian manufacturer Eletrofrio Refrigeração has now installed its propane (R290)-based HighPack PRO chiller system at six supermarkets across Brazil after installing its first unit in June 2023.

According to Rogério Marson Rodrigues, the company’s Engineering Manager, Eletrofrio expects to see this trend continue into the future with more installations planned at supermarkets in Brazil, Colombia and Costa Rica next year.

Rodrigues shared details of the company’s new R290 chiller during a refrigeration case studies session at the ATMOsphere (ATMO) Latin America (LATAM) Summit 2023. The conference took place November 8–9 in Mexico City and was organized by ATMOsphere, publisher of

Lower GWP and higher efficiency

The outdoor R290-based HighPack PRO unit connects to a glycol propylene (R1270) loop that delivers cooling to a supermarket’s medium-temperature display cases and cold rooms. The glycol loop can also be connected to a subcritical CO2 (R744) system for low-temperature applications.

The HighPack PRO offers cooling capacities of 10–50kW (2.8–14.2TR) with 3–8kg (6.6–17.6lbs) of propane. The modular system can include multiple independent units in parallel to meet end users’ varying thermal demands.

To meet safety standards, the HighPack PRO’s propane circuit is contained in a separate compartment from the glycol pumps and electrical panel. This compartment also includes a propane sensor and a permanent ventilation system to detect a leak if present and prevent a build-up of propane.

Eletrofrio’s original HighPack model used R410A but the Kigali Amendment requires a transition to low-GWP refrigerants.

“The first option was HFOs, but there are a lot of concerns about the future of these refrigerants so we are not considering them as an option,” explained Rodrigues. “Ammonia [R717] is a perfect option with high energy efficiency, but it’s difficult to convince our customers to use it in built-up areas. Similarly, CO2 is another excellent option, but the initial investment is high, and it requires specific technical training.”

“There are solutions with natural [refrigerants] for any kind of project,” he added. “For the Brazilian market, we chose hydrocarbons because the lower investment price and there is a simplicity in the operation of these systems.”

Compared to its R410A model, Eletrofrio’s HighPack PRO offers many benefits, including a significantly lower GWP and a 6.1% higher COP.

“There are solutions with natural [refrigerants] for any kind of project. For the Brazilian market, we chose hydrocarbons because the lower investment price and there is a simplicity in the operation of these systems.”

Rogério Marson Rodrigues, Eletrofrio Refrigeração

Rising demand for secondary systems

According to Rodrigues’s presentation, there are an increasing number of supermarkets in Brazil that are adopting secondary refrigeration systems for their display cases and cold rooms.

These systems typically have lower investment costs and require low refrigerant charges; however, they also tend to be less energy efficient due to the electricity requirements of the pump for the secondary fluid and the heat exchanger. That said, as Brazil’s electricity largely comes from hydropower, this is not a problem from an emissions perspective, he explained.

As of December 2022, Eletrofrio had installed more than 3,750 secondary fluid systems in supermarkets. Unfortunately, these typically use HFCs as the primary fluid, he added.