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Why It Matters

Sonia Saini

Energy Recovery, a U.S. manufacturer of pressure exchangers, has announced the appointment of Robert DelVentura as a special advisor to CEO David Moon and the company’s CO2 (R744) business unit.

DelVentura has more than 35 years of experience in refrigeration technology and most recently worked with Heatcraft Refrigeration Products, a division of Lennox International, as Vice President of Global Innovations. At Heatcraft, DelVentura oversaw teams developing, testing and releasing new CO2 refrigeration technologies for commercial and industrial systems.

“I have worked with Robert for 20 years and can attest that he is one of the most insightful HVAC&R experts I know,” said Moon. “I am confident that his guidance will lead to further adoption of our game-changing PX G1300 energy efficiency technology within commercial and industrial refrigeration.”

Moon, with more than 25 years of leadership experience in commercial and industrial technology, was appointed Energy Recovery’s President and CEO last January.

“The board conducted a comprehensive search and has unanimously agreed David has the experience and skills the company needs as we focus on commercializing new applications of our PX technology platform,” said Pamela Tondreau, Chair of Energy Recovery’s Board of Directors.

“I am confident that his guidance will lead to further adoption of our game-changing PX G1300 energy efficiency technology.”

David Moon, President and CEO of Energy Recovery

Moving to refrigeration

The company’s pressure exchanger, originally designed for use in the desalination industry, was brought to the CO2 refrigeration market roughly three years ago. The device transfers pressure energy from the high-pressure CO2 side in a refrigeration system to the low side.

“The PX G1300 is an interesting solution that increases the efficiency of an environmentally friendly refrigerant, CO2,” said DelVentura. “With the regulatory landscape quickly moving from traditional HFCs to lower global warming potential alternatives, Energy Recovery’s technology could have a significant positive impact.”

The company claims its PX G1300 device can increase energy efficiency in CO2-based commercial refrigeration systems by up to 25% at ambient temperature conditions around 37°C (98.6°F) compared to standard CO2 boosters.

When operating in CO2 heat pump systems, Energy Recovery has found that the device could improve system COP by up to 35%, as shown in a modeled analysis of a 10MW (2,843TR) CO2-based district heating system.

Energy Recovery’s PX G1300 won the Innovation of the Year award at the ATMOsphere America Summit 2023. ATMOsphere, publisher of Naturalrefrigerants.com, organized the event.

The Altherma 4 HS-S+ series will be available in four sizes and be able to operate in ambient temperatures as low as −28°C.

Why It Matters

Sonia Saini

Daikin Europe, a division of Japanese manufacturer Daikin Industries, has announced plans for a fall 2024 launch of its first-ever propane (R290) air-to-water residential heat pump, the Altherma 4 HS-S+ series.

The new heat pump will come in four sizes: 8, 10, 12 and 14kW (2.3, 2.8, 3.4 and 4.0TR). The company said it can operate “reliably” down to −28°C (−18.4°F) and provide water flow temperatures as high as 75°C (167°F). It has a propane charge of around 1.3kg (2.9lbs). Other refrigerant options for the unit include the HFC R32 and HFO R454C.

“With the introduction of the Daikin Altherma 4 series, Daikin underlines its goal to reduce environmental impact throughout the product life cycle [and] promote the development of systems with high energy efficiency and the use of refrigerants with a lower global warming potential,” the manufacturer said.

The company said that its “newly developed” aluminum microchannel heat exchanger reduces the required refrigerant change to provide “optimal” heat transfer, increasing the efficiency and operational stability of the heat pumps.

For controls, the unit allows toggling between user and installer menus through an MMI 3 interface. “The [5in/12.7cm] touchscreen provides end users intuitive access to frequently used functions, [while] the integrated commissioning assistant helps the installer to set up the heat pump,” Daikin explained.

Daikin first presented the Altherma 4 series in January 2023.

Safety features

Given R290’s flammability, Daikin designed and integrated several safety features into the Altherma 4 series, including:

  • A newly developed R290 gas separator
  • A sealed electrical circuit board box that uses plug-in internal electronic components
  • A propane leak detector combined with forced ventilation
  • Factoryinstalled frost protection valves
  • A stabilitytested refrigerant container for transportation and installation

In addition, the indoor unit contains a separate leak detector and gas separator, the company noted.

“This innovative series combines Daikin’s extensive expertise in heat pump technology with particularly low noise levels, optimal efficiency, user-friendly operation, modern design and high safety,” the company said.

Certified R290 partner

In preparation for launching the R290 Altherma 4 series, Daikin has also announced a second certification in its Stand by Me ‒ Certified Partner program focused on safely commissioning, maintaining and repairing this “new generation” of heat pump.

The training allows installers to obtain a certified partner label, Daikin said. “With this label, installers can assure homeowners that they are highly skilled professionals in heat pump installation.”

The second certification involves two 45minute online sessions focused on R290, with Daikin “encouraging” participants to attend an additional two days of in-person training at one of its 61 European training centers. The training covers the storage, transportation, installation, maintenance, repair and disposal of the R290 Altherma 4 series.

“This extended program emphasizes the importance of training and safety for Daikin,” said Patrick Crombez, General Manager of Heating and Renewables at Daikin Europe. “We have been offering training through our Daikin Academy training centers for many years, putting us at the forefront of safe, high-quality heating installation.”

Headquartered in Ostend, Belgium, Daikin Europe operates 14 manufacturing facilities in Europe and the Middle East, providing HVAC&R solutions for residential, commercial and industrial applications. Other propanebased equipment manufactured by the company includes retail plug-in showcases and monoblocks for cold rooms.

“This innovative series combines Daikin’s extensive expertise in heat pump technology with particularly low noise levels, optimal efficiency, user-friendly operation, modern design and high safety.”

Daikin Europe

End users participating in the accelerator program include Amazon, Target and IKEA.

Why It Matters

Sonia Saini

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced the launch of the Better Buildings Commercial Building Heat Pump Accelerator, a program that will see manufacturers produce “higher efficiency and life cycle cost-effective heat pump rooftop units” that will be implemented and evaluated by commercial end users, including Amazon, Target and IKEA.

Accelerating development: According to the DOE, heat pump rooftop units (RTUs) can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and cut energy costs by up to 50% compared to RTUs using natural gas. However, fewer than 15% of commercial buildings in the U.S. have heat pumps installed.

  • The DOE’s new accelerator aims to change that, with a goal of bringing “more efficient, affordable next-generation heat pump RTUs” to the market by 2027.
  • Manufacturers will be tasked with building prototype heat pump RTUs that meet an “advanced technology specification” created by the DOE. Any manufacturer of commercial heat pumps can participate in the accelerator.
  • The DOE, National Renewable Energy Laboratory and other labs will assist manufacturers in developing and testing prototypes as well as with facilitating field tests with end users. Commercial participants will be provided with “resources and guidance” in deploying heat pumps.

What it means for NatRefs: While the press release announcing the accelerator did not mention natural refrigerants, when reached for comment, the DOE confirmed to NaturalRefrigerants.com that they are a focus.

  • “The accelerator is framed in two phases, with the first working to maximize efficiency via today’s technologies and the second focusing on higher-performance and very-low-GWP refrigerants,” the DOE told NaturalRefrigerants.com. “DOE is supporting research on very-low-GWP refrigerants, including natural refrigerants, working closely with safety and building code organizations, and supporting workforce development to accelerate the development and adoption of very-low-GWP refrigerant technology.”
  • The accelerator runs through December 2027. By then, ASHRAE may have already approved a charge limit increase of up to 4.9kg (10.9lbs) for flammable refrigerants, such as propane (R290), used in indirect outdoor heat pump systems. Even if approved by ASHRAE, the charge limit increase would need to be approved by UL and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

All in: In addition to its new accelerator, the DOE has been providing funding to ramp up domestic production of heat pumps in the U.S. and to increase the adoption of industrial heat pumps in industry.

  • In the past year, the agency has announced $232 million (€217 million) in funding to ramp up domestic production of residential heat pumps. 
  • More recently, it awarded $20.9 million (€19.6 million) to Unilever and $170.9 million (€160.4 million) to Kraft Heinz to assist both companies in incorporating heat pumps into their operations to help decarbonize their process heat.

Quotable: “Since 2011, DOE’s Better Buildings Initiative has helped pave the way for cost-effective energy efficiency and decarbonization solutions across America’s building sector,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “Our new Commercial Building Heat Pump Accelerator builds on more than a decade of public-private partnerships to get cutting edge clean technologies from lab to market, helping to slash harmful carbon emissions throughout our economy.”

Announced manufacturing partners:

  • AAON
  • Budderfly
  • Carrier Global Corporation
  • Lennox International
  • Rheem Manufacturing Company
  • Trane Technologies
  • York International Corporation

Announced commercial partners:

  • Amazon
  • Budderfly
  • Columbia Association
  • IKEA
  • kW Engineering
  • Los Angeles Unified School District
  • Life Time
  • South-central Partnership for Energy Efficiency as a Resource (SPEER)
  • Target
  • Whole Foods Market

Why It Matters

Sonia Saini

ATMOsphere, publisher of NaturalRefrigerants.com and organizer of the ATMOsphere America Summit 2024, has announced the launch of the nomination process for the ATMO Awards/North America 2024.

The ATMO Awards/North America 2024, honoring excellence in the implementation of natural refrigerant-based HVAC&R systems, will be given during a special ceremony on the first day of the ATMOsphere America Summit 2024, June 10 in Washington, D.C. The conference will also take place on June 11.

An award will be given in each of four categories:

  • Best in Sector/Retail End User
  • Best in Sector/Industrial End User
  • Innovation of the Year
  • Person of the Year

ATMOsphere is inviting all stakeholders in the HVAC&R industry to submit nominations for companies in the Best in Sector/End User categories as well as for products in the Innovation of the Year category and an individual in the Person of the Year category.

The nomination form can be found here. The deadline for nominations is May 3. Register for the conference here.

Winners of the Best-in-Sector award, the End User award and the Person of the Year award will be announced at the ATMOsphere America 2024 conference. A short list of the finalists for the Innovation Awards will be announced prior to the conference, and then conference attendees will be able to vote for the winner in the days leading up to, and on, June 10.

Nominations for the Retail and Industrial Best-in-Sector/End User categories, Person of the Year and Innovation of the Year are welcomed from end users, manufacturers, academics, contractors, consultants, policymakers and others working with natural refrigerants within the HVAC&R industry. Companies and individuals may nominate themselves and their products or other companies, individuals and products.

In the Best-in-Sector categories, end user companies (retailers and industrial companies) will be recognized for implementing natural refrigerant systems that are part of new builds or remodels.

Criteria for assessing systems and companies include:

  • A reduction in energy consumption
  • A reduction in greenhouse gas emissions
  • Reproducibility
  • A business case encompassing capital, installation, operation, maintenance and training, and a return on investment
  •  Commitment to future natural refrigerant installations
  • Industry leadership
  • Innovation and perseverance

The Innovation of the Year awards will go to companies that have produced a natural refrigerant-based product that has had, or is expected to have, a significant impact on the market.

Criteria for assessing this product include:

  • Number of installations in the marketplace
  • Energy efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction
  • Ability to expand the adoption of natural refrigerants in the marketplace
  • Availability in the marketplace
  • User and technician friendliness

The Person of the Year Award will honor a single individual who has done the most to advance the adoption of natural refrigerant technology in HVAC&R applications in North America. This award could go to any individual, including end users, manufacturers, contractors, policymakers, academics and researchers.

Audo was most recently a VP and Managing Director at Carrier and brings 30 years of industry experience to the role.

Why It Matters

Sonia Saini

Enex Technologies, an Italy-based HVAC&R manufacturer, has announced the appointment of François Audo as its new CEO.

Audo joins Enex from Carrier, where he served as Vice President and Managing Director of the company’s residential light commercial sector for Europe as well as the General Manager for Riello, an Italian HVAC&R company and Carrier subsidiary.

“Given the impact of fluorinated gases on global warming — F-gas leaks have a global warming impact equivalent to European aviation — as well as their contamination of water basins, completely phasing them out is a moral obligation that is also supported by the recent PFAS proposal and F-gas law,” Greg Deldicque, Founder and Chairman of Enex Technologies, told NaturalRefrigerants.com. “For Enex Technologies, the question is not if HVAC&R equipment should use F-gas or natural refrigerants but what is the best natural option for each application. This is why we have developed a full offering of CO2, ammonia, propane and water solutions.”

Maintaining momentum: Audo’s arrival at Enex Technologies comes hot on the heels of a string of acquisitions made in 2022 and 2023 and the opening of a new factory.

  • In October 2022, the company acquired refrigeration equipment maker Samifi France and heat exchanger producer Morgana. A month later, it announced the acquisition of the Emicon Group – consisting of the Italian companies Emicon, Hidros and Ethra Tech – manufacturers of commercial propane heat pumps, dehumidification equipment, close controls for data centers and chillers.
  • The company brought Spanish ammonia (R717) chiller manufacturer EOS Refrigeration into its portfolio in early 2023. In total, there are nine companies under the Enex Technologies umbrella.
  • Enex Technologies opened a new 7,500m2 (80,729ft2) headquarters and factory in Treviso, Italy, in 2022, which it said has enabled it to quadruple its manufacturing footprint. Six of Enex Technologies’ 12 factories are located in Italy.

Focused on natural refrigerants: Enex Technologies has been working with natural refrigerants since the 1930s, having first manufactured ammonia refrigeration systems. Today, the company offers a range of heating, cooling and refrigeration equipment that uses ammonia, CO2 (R744), propane (R290) and water (R718).

  • Enex Technologies is investing €6 million ($6.3 million) to develop a lab exclusively focused on researching CO2, propane, ammonia and water HVAC&R equipment. According to the company, this will be the only such research lab in Europe.
  • In January, Enex announced the launch of what it called the “first-ever” industrial CO2 flat gas cooler with a 140bar (2,031psi) pressure rating.

Looking forward: Enex Technologies has a goal to double its 2024 sales compared to 2022, which the company said would put it at €200 million ($213 million) in sales for the year.

  • By 2027, Enex Technologies is targeting €350 million ($373 million) in sales.
  • “I am thrilled to welcome François Audo to the role of CEO at Enex Technologies,” said Deldicque. “Throughout his 30 years of industry experience, he has clearly demonstrated great success working across cultures and multiple business models. François’ leadership will allow Enex to continue on its path of success.”

Quotable: “Enex Technologies is expected to continue its mission of reducing global warming impact through natural and energy-efficient solutions,” said Audo. “Our family of brands, which entails the full spectrum of HVAC, industrial and commercial refrigeration, and heat exchanger solutions committed to environmental sustainability and technological innovation, positions us well for future opportunities. I look forward to working with the strong team at Enex Technologies.”

The Gasmark M255 controller links to up to 255 detectors via a single wire.

Why It Matters

Sonia Saini

U.S. manufacturer CTI (Calibration Technologies Inc.) Gas Detection Specialists has unveiled two new products – a Modbus controller that can accommodate up to 255 gas detection devices, and a portable ammonia (R717) gas detector

Both products were released last October and showcased at the IIAR 2024 Natural Refrigeration Conference & Heavy Equipment Expo, held March 24-27 in Orlando, Florida.  They are manufactured at CTI’s headquarters in Columbia, Missouri.

The controller, called the Gasmark M255, connects to up to 255 “daisy-chained” devices via one wire, said Debbie Koske, Marketing Manager for CTI, adding, “Before, each detector had to be wired to the controller,” which increased the cost of installation.

Koske noted that another CTI controller, the GG-6, can connect to six detection devices and accommodate three expansion modules, each serving up to eight devices, for a maximum of 30.

The M255, which features a 10in (25.4cm) color LCD touchscreen, is well-suited to manage the multiple detectors used for ammonia refrigeration in industrial facilities, noted Koske. The IIAR-2 2021 safety standard calls for ammonia detectors in the compressor room, at entrances to the room and in rooms where refrigeration is required.

The M255 can interface to, but operate independently of, plant control systems as a stand-alone safety sys­tem. It comes with four Modbus channels, eight analog input channels and eight onboard relays, and is user programmable to trigger upon any event for any sensor or group of sensors.

The touchscreen displays real-time status of gas detector con­centrations and alarms, and allows for easier programming via a user-friendly menu system, CTI says on its website. A USB port allows for field software updates and provides a means to back up system programming.

First CTI-made portable device

The portable ammonia detector, called the Wingman F1, is the first personal detector manufactured by CTI; previously CTI only sold a unit from Honeywell. It can be clipped onto the wearer, preferably elevated on a shirt or jacket, said Koske.

The Wingman F1, which measures 2.7 by 2.6 by 1.6in (6.9 by 6.6 by 4.1cm) and weighs 4oz (113.4g), offers ammonia detection from  up to 500ppm, with a resolution of 1ppm. In addition to LED front lighting, it has an internal vibrating alarm for high noise areas. The event log stores up to 100 events with a time and date stamp. When full, the device uses wraparound memory to re­place oldest data with most recent.

“Facility personnel will find this a useful tool for monitoring ammonia levels independent of the facility’s fixed gas detection system,” says CTI.

“Before, each detector had to wired to the controller.”

Debbie Koske, CTI

According to Amrit Robbins, in addition to HFC phase-down regulations, a new SEC rule is also driving the transition.

Why It Matters

Sonia Saini

The transition to natural refrigerants in the U.S. food retail and cold storage sectors is “inevitable” as businesses face tightening regulation of HFC refrigerants and growing pressure to cut emissions, Amrit Robbins, CEO of California-based refrigeration management software provider Axiom Cloud, told NaturalRefrigerants.com in a recent interview.

Amrit Robbins, CEO of Axiom Cloud
Amrit Robbins, CEO of Axiom Cloud

“There seems to be a growing acceptance among industry stakeholders that we are on an inevitable path toward natural refrigerants,” he said. “Many U.S. companies tend to resist change in refrigeration practices, but I think that natural refrigerants are now overcoming this initial industry resistance.”

According to Robbins, in the U.S. alone some 40,000 retail and cold storage facilities will need to be converted to low-GWP refrigerants over the coming decades as the country works to phase down the consumption of HFCs under the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act.

Additionally, a new rule from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) will require publicly traded companies to disclose Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions they deem “material” to their businesses starting in 2026.

“HFC leaks drive a large amount of Scope 1 [direct] emissions, which cause these companies to have an outsized climate impact,” he said. “Companies in our industry will look bad if they do not get [HFC] leak rates under control before SEC reporting. This may negatively impact ESG [Environmental, Social and Governance] metrics, damage shareholder perception and increase regulator scrutiny.”

On a federal level, the Envrionmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed a rule requiring operators of HFC refrigeration equipment to repair and report leaks. At the state level, a recently enacted law requires operators in Washington to do the same, with New York proposing a similar rule as part of its revised HFC regulations.

With negligible GWPs, natural refrigerants offer a future-proof alternative to HFCs.

Additional regulation needed

While the sector is set to move in the direction of natural refrigerants, the shift will be a gradual one, Robbins noted, with end users unlikely to adopt them until regulation requires them to do so.

“Rather than leapfrogging directly to natural refrigerants, many [end users] are deploying ‘stepping stone’ refrigerants – such as HFC-HFO blends – in the near-term,” he said. “I anticipate that this trend will continue until the stepping stone refrigerants are more heavily regulated also.”

In Europe, five countries – Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden – are working to restrict the use of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) under REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals), the EU’s chemicals regulation, which would limit the use of some HFCs and HFOs.

Enhancing NatRef systems

“End user stakeholders disagree on the merits and drawbacks of natural refrigerants, especially related to energy efficiency and reliability,” said Robbins.

However, with the use of Axiom Cloud’s services, operators of natural refrigerant-based systems can enhance the performance of their refrigeration equipment, he added.

“When our software constructs a model of a facility, it autonomously identifies systems using natural refrigerants and focuses on capturing the critical data specific to those systems,” he explained. “This process allows our software services, including predictive maintenance and energy efficiency modules, to accurately reflect the system’s characteristics and provide valuable system insights.”

Axiom released its Early Leak Detection (ELD) software for HFC refrigerants in 2023 after testing it in more than 200 locations in the U.S., including Sprouts Farmers Market, Grocery Outlet and HelloFresh. Robbins noted that the company is currently rolling out a version of the software in multiple facilities with natural refrigerant-based systems and has plans for a “formal release” in the coming year.

Axiom recently announced that it secured $5 million (€4.58 million) in funding to support an accelerated rollout of its ELD software.

While its cloud-based software is currently only installed in North America, Axiom has some “big announcements” for end users outside the region “coming soon,” he added.

“Many U.S. companies tend to resist change in refrigeration practices, but I think that natural refrigerants are now overcoming this initial industry resistance.”

Amrit Robbins, CEO of Axiom Cloud

Heat pump sales decreased 5% in 14 European countries in 2023, according to the European Heat Pump Association.

Why It Matters

Sonia Saini

NIBE Group, the parent company of heat pump manufacturer NIBE, has announced it will lay off 340 employees in Sweden due to “much weaker demand” in the European heat pump market.

The slow start to 2024 follows a “clear decline” in the market in the second half of 2023, according to the group’s year-end report.

With an outsized inventory of heat pumps, the company hopes to align itself with the “current lower sales volumes” by reducing staff and overhead costs, particularly within its Climate Solutions division in Europe.

“This certainly is an extremely difficult decision to downsize and terminate the employment of loyal employees,” said Gerteric Lindquist, CEO and Managing Director of NIBE. “But it has become necessary due to the tough market conditions.”

Of the planned layoffs, 264 will take place at NIBE, whose product portfolio includes the award-winning propane (R290)-based S2125 heat pump. Another 40 employees will be made redundant at CTC, a Swedish manufacturer of propane- and HFC-based heat pumps. According to CTC’s website, the company was acquired by NIBE in 2017 and has around 250 employees.

A similar reduction in staffing levels will take place across the rest of NIBE Group’s European operations, the company added. Globally, NIBE Group employs some 21,000 people.

Political support needed

As noted in the group’s year-end report, NIBE attributes the difficult market conditions in Europe to a lack of clarity around future heat pump subsidy programs in a number of countries, as well as “a deteriorating economy, lower housing output and rising interest rates.”

Conversely, in the U.S., “political decision-making has resulted in a robust, long-term incentive program for transition to fossil-free climate control,” NIBE Group explained.

To stimulate heat pump demand in the U.S., the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is delivering a range of tax incentives and rebates for households that opt for energy-efficient heating, cooling and hot water systems like heat pumps. On the supply side, the same law is supporting heat pump manufacturers, with more than $230 million (€214 million) in funding to accelerate domestic production of heat pump systems and components.

According to the European Heat Pump Association (EHPA), heat pump sales in 14 European countries decreased by around 5% in 2023 compared to 2022, reversing the trend of the last decade.

The slowing market has caused a number of manufacturers to announce job cuts or adjustments over the past six months, including Daikin and Vaillant. Analysis conducted by the EPHA indicates the changes announced to date will affect nearly 3,000 employees, predominantly across , Belgium, France and Germany

NIBE has said that downsizing will enable it to “establish the best possible foundations” during market uncertainty.

“We have long been convinced of the future growth potential to be found in the transition to a fossil-free society and reduced carbon dioxide emissions, and we are particularly well positioned in this market,” said Lindquist. “We are committed to navigating the downturn in the best possible way so that we will be in an appropriately strong position once the market picks up again.”

To stimulate the demand for heat pumps in Europe, stable policy support and gas-competitive electricity prices are needed, explained the EHPA.

“We are committed to navigating the downturn in the best possible way so that we will be in an appropriately strong position once the market picks up again.”

Gerteric Lindquist, NIBE

For example, a recently-approved €350 million ($379 million) aid scheme in Portugal will provide grants to heat pump producers and companies that are manufacturing equipment necessary to transition to a net-zero economy.

However, demand-side stimulation is also needed to ensure strong market growth, and many European countries are offering some form of grant or financial support to boost heat pump installations.

In the U.K., the government recently increased the subsidy available for heat pumps by 50% under its Boiler Upgrade Scheme. France’s MaPrimeRénov scheme, which helps cover the costs of installing heat pumps among other upgrades, has been revamped in recent months to make it simpler after applications dropped by 40%.

The Ejet system offers liquid recirculation performance and DX system design, operation and technology, the company says.

Why It Matters

Sonia Saini

U.S. manufacturer Evapco has developed an Ejet-branded evaporator for its low-charge ammonia (R717) packaged refrigeration units that uses an ejector to raise the capacity and efficiency of a DX (direct exchange) evaporator almost to the level of a pumped liquid recirculation unit while offering the low charge and stable operation of a direct expansion (DX) system, the company says.

The new technology was showcased with Evapco’s VersaSplit system at the IIAR 2024 Natural Refrigeration Conference & Heavy Equipment Expo, held March 24-27 in Orlando, Florida.

Last October, Evapco launched VersaSplit, a condensing unit that the company deems the “world’s first” packaged low-charge ammonia mega-split industrial refrigeration system, with up to six remote DX evaporators operating at different temperatures.

The Ejet system “combines the best of both worlds – liquid recirculation performance and DX system design, operation and technology,” said Beth Fox, Evaporator Product Manager for Evapco, in a presentation at the IIAR 2024 conference, adding, “Evapco is the first to apply an ammonia vapor ejector for an industrial refrigeration application.”

The Ejet system contains an ejector that recirculates liquid refrigerant that would otherwise need to be vaporized using superheat to prevent carryover into the compressor. “With Ejet, you can run superheat lower and make the DX evaporator more like a recirculation evaporator, capturing liquid out of the coil that isn’t used and putting it back into the evaporator,” explained Kurt Liebendorfer, Vice President, Business Development, Industrial Refrigeration for Evapco, at the IIAR conference. The lowering of superheat improves the efficiency of the evaporator, he added.

Currently, the Ejet system is used only for medium-temperature applications 35°F (1.7°C) and higher. For low temperature, Eject needs a “different design that has not been perfected yet but it’s coming,” said Liebendorfer.

From recirculation to DX

Evapco’s low-charge penthouse refrigeration units were originally designed to use pumped liquid recirculation but at a very low 1.2 to 1 recirculation rate. But as evaporators in the VersaSplit system are at a distance from the condensing unit, Evapco preferred to use the high-pressure liquid of DX rather than a pump, said Liebendorfer. “It’s easier with high-pressure liquid.”  The DX system also keeps the charge at a low 5lbs/TR (0.65kg/kW).

In the Ejet system, an ammonia liquid-gas mixtures passes through the expansion valve into an inlet separator, which sends the liquid into the distributor and then to the evaporation coil. The suction header captures excess liquid refrigerant before it escapes to the compressor rack, and then the ejector uses the ammonia flash gas from the inlet separator to pull the liquid back to the distributor and coil, delivering almost 1.2 to 1 recirculation rate in a traditional DX system.

Evapco's Ejet
Design of Evapco’s Ejet system at the IIAR 2024 conference

“You are 95% of your circulated rating with this [Ejet] operation, and compared to traditional DX it is lower in dollars per ton,” said Cory Groves, Product Application & Marketing Manager, Industrial Refrigeration for Evapco. Fox said the capacity of the Ejet system is 15–30% greater than a DX system and 95% of a recirculated system.

The Ejet design enables the system to use only two or three degrees of superheat rather than seven to 10, said Groves. “So you can shrink the size of the evaporator to be more like a recirculation size than a DX.” And by enabling evaporation throughout the coil, the Ejet offers “more capacity and lower fan horsepower,” he added.

The first installation of the VersaSplit system took place at a cold-storage facility in Reno, Nevada, with 10 two-evaporator VersaSplit units.  Now a VersaSplit can support six independent evaporators, which has made it very economical compared to Evapco’s penthouse unit that contains two evaporators, noted Liebendorfer. The company secured three new VersaSplit projects in January and February, two cold-storage facilities and one food processor, he added.

In 2022, Evapco announced its acquisition of Canadian-based manufacturer Systèmes LMP (known generally as LMP) to form subsidiary Evapco Systems LMP, combining Evapco’s expertise in ammonia refrigeration with LMP’s in transcritical CO2 (R744) refrigeration in the North American marketplace.

“You are 95% of your circulated rating with this [Ejet] operation, and compared to traditional DX it is lower in dollars per ton.”

– Cory Groves, Product Application & Marketing Manager, Industrial Refrigeration for Evapco

With Beijer Ref Academies already running in Australia and China, the company hopes to open a CO2 training center in Japan later this year.

Why It Matters

Sonia Saini

Training and knowledge sharing is key to accelerating the adoption of CO2 (R744) and other natural refrigerant-based technologies in the “complex” Asia-Pacific (APAC) market, according to Inderpal Saund, Business Development Director APAC for Beijer Ref Australia.

While there have been numerous technological advances in the region over the last two decades, the extent to which natural refrigerants are embraced in APAC will come down to training, with very few “everyday” refrigeration technicians working with CO2, ammonia (R717) or propane (R290), explained Saund.

“If we do not share the knowledge and lessons learned, then it’s all a waste of time,” he said. “For us to grow CO2, we need to assist our industry with the right knowledge. Hence, for us, training is a must.”

To support the training of technicians, Beijer Ref operates numerous academies around the world, with facilities in Europe, Australia and China. According to Saund, the company hopes to open a new center in Japan by the end of the year in collaboration with local partner Mtass Refrigeration (Mtass Ref). Beijer Ref is also looking into the possibility of offering mobile CO2 training, he added.

Saund delivered these remarks during his presentation in the State of the Industry – APAC session at the ATMOsphere APAC Summit 2024. The conference took place in Tokyo February 6–7 and was organized by ATMOsphere, publisher of NaturalRefrigerants.com.

Previously, Saund has supported high-level technical training on CO2 applications at the Cold Chain Innovation Hub (CCI-Hub) in the Philippines. The aim of the training was to improve the efficiency and profitability of R744 technologies in the region.

The evolution of CO2 in Oceania

With more than 30 countries making up APAC, the region’s HVAC&R market is very complex with each country having its own climate, regulations, technologies and workforce, explained Saund.

“These factors have made the journey of CO2 within APAC a difficult one,” he said. “However, as the popularity of natural refrigerants grows, so does the interest in CO2.”

The CO2 HVAC&R technologies found in APAC have changed significantly since the installation of the region’s first R744 system – a low-temperature cascade system – in 2004, noted Saund.

“As technology has improved over the years, we’ve seen booster systems, parallel systems, adiabatic coolers, ejectors and now dynamic vapor ejection come onto the scene,” he explained. “With a portfolio that ranges from small condensing units to large industrial installations, there are no longer limitations from an ambient [temperature] or application point of view.”

In Australia, Beijer Ref and SCM Frigo have installed 80 transcritical CO2 systems over the last decade. The installed systems include a range of additional technologies, such as ejectors and adiabatic coolers, and the company has recently installed its first dynamic vapor injection system using Copeland scroll compressors. The Australian convenience store sector is also beginning to embrace CO2 condensing units, he added.

According to Saund, the New Zealand market is slightly ahead of the Australian in terms of the adoption of transcritical CO2 refrigeration, with more than 100 systems installed since 2016. He attributed this to the country’s support of new technologies. To meet the growing demand, Beijer Ref is developing domestic manufacturing capacity for CO2 condensing units.

The evolution of CO2 in Asia

The company also has industrial CO2 systems installed in a Hong Kong ice rink and a Singaporean pharmaceutical facility. In Singapore specifically, Saund noted that they are seeing the market for CO2 pick up.

In China, however, the adoption of CO2 has stalled over the last two years, following various commercial and industrial installations starting in 2018.

“The focus in China has gone back to the traditional refrigerants,” he explained. “It really comes down to price; when you’re comparing CO2 to [alternatives], they tend to choose the cheaper option.”

With regard to CO2, Saund said the availability of local support is also a limiting factor in its adoption.

According to China IOL, an organization that collects data on the country’s HVAC&R industry, synthetic refrigerants are still commonly used in most refrigerated equipment. The exception is in the light-commercial refrigeration segment, where hydrocarbons like propane and isobutane (R600a) are estimated to be used in 60% of equipment.

In Japan, Beijer Ref has partnered with Mtass Ref to support transcritical CO2 technologies over the last four years, with applications ranging from small bakeries to large factories. In a recent interview with Marc Chasserot, CEO and Co-Founder of ATMOsphere, publisher of NaturalRefrigerants.com, SCM Frigo confirmed that Mtass Ref would be selling the Italian manufacturer’s CO2 condensing units and racks in Japan.

“It’s been a slow start, but we’re seeing movement,” said Saund. “We see a bright future in Japan.”

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