ATMOsphere, publisher of Hydrocarbons21.com, has released its 2023 Market Report, “Natural Refrigerants: State of the Industry/Refrigeration in Europe, North America and Japan, Plus Heat Pumps in Europe,” with data showing growth of installations of hydrocarbon cabinets in Europe and North America, and hydrocarbon chillers and domestic heat pumps in Europe.

The report can be downloaded for free here.

The release of the annual report coincided with the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which ran from November 30 to December 12 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. At the event representatives of ATMOsphere highlighted the report in supporting the global adoption of clean cooling and heating technologies with natural refrigerants alongside the launch of the Global Cooling Pledge.

“Our 2023 Market Report will contribute to the conversation in Dubai and worldwide by providing the latest insights and data on natural refrigerant-based commercial and industrial refrigeration systems in several key markets – Europe, the U.S., Canada and Japan,” said Marc Chasserot, Founder and Publisher of ATMOsphere, at the start of COP28. “We consider this report to be the world’s leading resource for information on the installations and penetration of natural refrigeration in the commercial and industrial sectors.”

The report provides installation data as of December 2023 for transcritical CO2, low-charge ammonia and hydrocarbon cabinets in Europe and North America (U.S. and Canada) and transcritical CO2 in Japan, as well as (for the first time) hydrocarbon chillers in Europe and natural refrigerant (mostly hydrocarbon)-based domestic heat pumps in Europe.

As of December 2023, ATMOsphere estimated 3.2 million hydrocarbons-based retail cabinets have been installed in Europe, an increase of 10% from 2022, when there were an estimated 2.9 million.

As of June 2021, there were an estimated 2.7 million hydrocarbon-based cases in operation in Europe, based on production numbers from leading OEMs. This number also included an estimated 300,000 units beverage coolers.

ATMOsphere estimates there were 5,000 industrial sites with hydrocarbon-based chillers in Europe as of December 2023.

An ATMOsphere survey put the number of natural refrigerant (typically propane) domestic heat pump unit sales at 225,000 in 2022, and this was estimated to grow to 514,000 in 2023, 1.1 million in 2025 and 11.33 million in 2030.

As of December 2023, ATMOsphere estimated there were 928,000 self-contained hydrocarbon (mostly R290) cases installed in U.S. food stores, an increase of 1% from the 919,000 cases a year ago. The market is starting to be saturated and most of the new units are replacement units.

Drivers of adoption

Among the drivers of natural refrigerant- based refrigeration adoption,  regulatory action has had the most to do with it. In Europe, as explained in the report, the F-gas Regulation, already a major spur to natural refrigerant adoption, has been upgraded this year, making f-gases an even less attractive option. The EU’s ongoing consideration of restrictions on PFAS, which are defined to include HFOs, only serves to further accelerate the move toward natural refrigerants.

In the U.S., the rollout of the AIM Act, especially its Technology Transitions piece, has sparked long overdue interest in natural refrigerants by large supermarket chains. The restrictions on 150+ GWP refrigerants in the AIM Act have already led to considerable adoption of CO2 and hydrocarbon equipment in California, where these limits were enacted in 2020; they are now having a similar effect on a national level. But unlike Europe, the U.S. government has yet to make the connection between PFAS and f-gases.

In Japan, the government’s natural refrigerant subsidy program has been a major driver of adoption.

In Europe, North America and Japan, changes to the charge limits for hydrocarbons are opening new opportunities for self-contained cases using propane. Europe has many other measures, including its ecodesign and labeling rules, HFC taxes, incentives and RePowerEU heat pump rollout, with the potential to support natural refrigerant adoption.

This report also delves into the many other factors impacting the uptake of natural refrigerants, both on a global and regional level. Worldwide, technological improvements continue to make transcritical CO2 applicable in all climates and in integrated HVAC&R formats while lowering the charge levels of ammonia systems and boosting the efficiency of hydrocarbon cases.

We consider this report to be the world’s leading resource for information on the installations and penetration of natural refrigeration in the commercial and industrial sectors.”

Marc Chasserot, Founder and Publisher of ATMOsphere