Italian compressor manufacturer Frascold has sold three compact screw compressors that will be used in a propane chiller application by a pharmaceutical company in a San Francisco Bay Area plant, according to Kristian Ellefsen, CEO of Frascold’s Everett, Wash.-based U.S. division.

“Propane is actually starting to become a refrigerant in chillers in the U.S.,” said Ellefsen, in an interview at the Global Cold Chain Expo this week in Chicago.

He declined to name the pharmaceutical company or the OEM that assembled the propane chiller without their permission. Frascold has also supplied six propane screw compressors for an oil/gas application, he added.

The pharmaceutical chiller, to be located outside the plant, consists of three ATEX-certified 80-HP screw compressors, and contains a “couple of hundred pounds” of propane, Ellefsen said. It uses glycol as a secondary coolant. He expects the chiller to be installed later this year as a retrofit for an HFC system in the Bay area plant.

Ellefsen has been seeking to market its compressors for propane chillers in the U.S. market at least since 2016. Frascold supplies compressors for propane chiller applications in Europe.

“Propane is actually starting to become a refrigerant in chillers in the U.S.” 

Kristian Ellefsen, Frascold USA

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency prohibits the use of more than 150 g of propane in commercial applications, but the pharmaceutical company was able to gain a waiver to that rule, Ellefsen said, though he could not provide details.  In 2016, Whole Foods Market received permission from the EPA to test market a propane chiller system containing about 285 lbs of propane at a store in Santa Clara, Calif.

Ellefsen, who said he is “convinced” that the EPA will eventually allow higher charges of propane, sees potential growth for propane chillers in the U.S. market at end users like breweries.

The pharmaceutical company considered installing a CO2 transcritical unit instead of the propane chiller, but felt the transcritical unit was “too complicated” for its service technicians, said Ellefsen.

Frascold USA is in the process of receiving UL certification for its CO2 compressors, he noted.

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