Natural refrigerants are market-proven, environmentally friendly and economically competitive alternatives to the HFCs being phased down under the EU F-Gas Regulation, Carrefour and Delhaize representatives told the ATMOsphere France conference today.

“Transitioning to natural refrigerants simply makes sense. By 2030, we’ll be HFC-free,“ David Schalenbourg, director of department – building projects, format & maintenance at Delhaize Belgium, told the natural refrigerants event, held at the InterContinental Paris Marceau in the French capital.

Commercial refrigeration is one area in which the EU’s F-Gas Regulation, which regulates the bloc’s f-gas use, is already beginning to bite. In 2022, bans on using certain HFCs with GWPs above 150 in new centralised and plug-in commercial refrigeration equipment will come into effect.

For bigger stores, Delhaize Belgium is adopting CO2 by default. For smaller stores, the retailer is also investing in hydrocarbons.

“Transitioning to natural refrigerants simply makes sense. By 2030, we’ll be HFC-free.

David Schalenbourg, Delhaize

Transforming the market

The wider Ahold Delhaize group of which Delhaize Belgium is part encompasses 21 local brands across some 6,500 stores around the world. By 2050, the group is aiming to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40-70% compared to 2010 levels.

Today 13% of Ahold-Delhaize sites already use natural refrigerant-based installations (end 2017), Schalenbourg told the Paris audience. In Europe the figure is 33%.

Making the business case for CO2, Schalenbourg said installing CO2 transcritical systems as a replacement for R404A in three Belgian stores had reduced their energy consumption by 40% (Fragnée store; also taking into account the energy efficiency of the building itself), 20% (Chazal store; the gain is from the CO2 transcritical system alone), and 37.7% respectively (Dinant store, also from CO2 only).

“Our objective is to show the way, help to transform the market, and show others what’s possible,” Schalenbourg said.

“It’s about removing any lingering doubts and fears. We’re demonstrating that natural refrigerants are the way to go,” he said.

Carrefour investing in CO2

To reduce refrigerant emissions, Carrefour is phasing out HFCs and replacing them with CO2 for commercial refrigeration. In smaller stores, it is also investing in hydrocarbons. Factors ultimately influencing the decision to go for CO2 or hydrocarbons include store size, equipment cost, and legislation in each country.

“Our mission to convert our stores to natural refrigerants began in 2011. It is a Group-wide engagement. In Europe and Latin America, we had over 400 sites running on natural refrigerants by the end of January 2018,” said Jean-Michel Fleury, project director – international support, Carrefour Group.

Overall the Carrefour Group is aiming to reduce carbon emissions by 40% by 2025 and by 70% by 2050 (compared to 2010 levels). There are around 12,300 stores under the Group banner in 35 countries and five continents.

“We’re targeting 100% natural refrigerants in all our installations, stores and logistics centres included, by 2030,” Fleury said. “Group-wide, we’re committed to bringing everyone on this journey.”

“For supermarkets and hypermarkets, we have no doubt that CO2 is the best way to go.

Jean-Michel Fleury, Carrefour

A future-proof investment

For new logistics centres, Carrefour works with both CO2 and ammonia. In the commercial space, meanwhile, the future direction is clear. “For supermarkets and hypermarkets, we have no doubt that CO2 is the best way to go.”

By the end of 2017, Carrefour had invested around €150 million in phasing down HFCs and replacing them with CO2 systems since 2015.

“It’s almost a philosophical question – what world do we want to leave for our children?” Fleury asked.

“We’re taking the long-term view as we transition to natural refrigerants, and we’re working hard to reduce the cost of that transition,” he said.

ATMOsphere France 2018, held today (5 July), marked the first time that the ATMOsphere conference series on natural refrigerants had come to France.

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