ASHRAE and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) have announced the project selections for the 2023 ASHRAE-UNEP OzonAction Lower-GWP Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Innovation Awards, which include three hydrocarbon-based projects: one in Ecuador and two in Brazil.

The annual international award program promotes innovative design, research and practice by recognizing people who have developed or implemented “innovative technological concepts applied in developing countries to promote lower GWP refrigerants through refrigeration and air-conditioning applications,” said ASHRAE and UNEP in a statement.

In addition to the hydrocarbon projects, one ammonia system was also chosen for an award.

“The projects selected represent long-term, global and energy-efficient solutions to lessen the impact of ozone-depleting substances,” said Ginger Scoggins, 2023–24 ASHRAE President and Co-Chair of the Judging Committee. “We congratulate the selected project teams and look forward to witnessing their innovative concepts set a benchmark for sustainability in developing countries.”

Updating regulations

The Ecuador project involved a cold storage facility using propane (R290) as an alternative refrigerant. The project resulted in a 36% reduction in energy consumption and a 41% decrease in CO2e emissions.

The project also provided input for updating regulations on flammable refrigerants. It included performing a flammability risk assessment following the European refrigeration safety standard EN 378 and the European explosive atmospheres standard EN 1127-1 to identify possible sources of ignition and implement actions to eliminate them, including R290 sensors inside the room.

The Ecuador project team, affiliated with UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organization), includes Rodrigo Serpa, Fernando Del Castillo, Omarly Acevedo and Ana Correa.

One of the Brazilian projects developed a new heat exchanger composition for draft beer machines that allows the use of flammable refrigerants and improves cooling efficiency. The new design reduces the refrigerant charge, eliminates oil accumulation issues and enhances heat exchange between fluids and the intermediate material.

The project achieved lower energy consumption and CO2e emissions, while maintaining the size and usability of the equipment, said ASHRAE and UNEP.

The project team, affiliated with the Federal University of Uberlândia in Brazil, included Enio Pedone Bandarra Filho, Eduardo Arjona Esteves, Lucas Cavalin, David Fernando Marcucci Pico, Davi Telles and Roberto Cavalin.

The other Brazilian project involves the development of a modular low-charge refrigerant chiller using propane as an HCFC replacement in a convenience store in Brazil. The system includes a centralized control system, capacity control by mass-flow variation and the use of low internal volume evaporators and condensers to minimize refrigerant charge.

The modular system allows for “easy replacement of faulty equipment and eliminates the need for maintenance in the field,” said ASHRAE and UNEP. Other benefits of this project include optimized performance, reduced environmental impact through natural refrigerants and potential future retrofit opportunities in developing countries.

The adoption of a control and pumping unit separate from the cooling modules enhanced safety since all the electrical power and control parts were separated from the propane circulation environment, explained ASHRAE and UNEP.

This project team includes Fernando Sayols Marchioro, Éder Paluch and Elielton Polityto.

Award criteria

The projects in each category were selected based on delivering innovative solutions to meet refrigeration and air-conditioning needs by using lower-GWP technologies. The selection criteria included:

  • Extent of need.
  • Innovative aspects in transforming conventional practices.
  • Technical replicability to developing countries.

The judges also accounted for economic feasibility when possible, considering that growing acceptance of new technologies will favorably influence cost and availability, said ASHRAE and UNEP.

The judges who reviewed the entries were Nesreen Ghaddar (Lebanon), Cesar Lim (Philippines), Roberto Peixoto (Brazil) and James Wolf (United States).

The selected projects were announced at the 2023 ASHRAE Annual Conference in Tampa, Florida. Selected project teams will be recognized with the awarding of certificates at UNEP events held in the regions or countries of the projects.

“We are living at a watershed moment under the Montreal Protocol when developing countries must find long-term solutions to replace HCFC refrigerants while simultaneously minimizing climate impacts,” said James S. Curlin, Head of UNEP OzonAction and Co-Chair of the Judging Committee. “It is vital to empower the research community to identify new approaches and alternative refrigerants that work for those countries. UNEP OzonAction is proud to join with ASHRAE to recognize these winners who are proposing approaches that address the ozone, climate and energy dimensions.”

Other efforts in Global South

Other efforts to bring natural refrigerant-based technologies to the Global South are being made by the Green Cooling Initiative (GCI), a worldwide initiative that focuses on the promotion of sustainable cooling globally.

GCI is run by GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit), a service provider of the German government that supports sustainable development in more than 100 countries around the world. GCI is funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection (BMUV). It is part of GIZ Proklima, an umbrella of projects funded by the German government, the EU, the French government and other donors in support of green cooling worldwide since 1995.

“GCI supports the adoption of RAC and heat pump technology that uses natural refrigerants, high energy efficiency and renewables, if possible,” said Philipp Denzinger, Project Manager of the GCI.

GCI is seeking new manufacturer members for its Green Cooling Network, an alliance of key players in the RAC (refrigeration and air-conditioning) sector. The Green Cooling Network is designed to “bring together industry and governments” in an effort to “promote green cooling globally” via public–private partnerships, explained Denzinger.

The Green Cooling Network offers manufacturers of natural refrigerant products opportunities to implement them in the Global South where such technologies are in short supply, noted Denzinger. “We are aiming to establish supply chains between technology providers and the Global South.”

“The projects selected represent long-term, global and energy-efficient solutions to lessen the impact of ozone-depleting substances.”

Ginger Scoggins, 2023–24 ASHRAE President