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R717 is the most efficient refrigerant in this sector, the manufacturer told NaturalRefrigerants.com in an exclusive interview at ARBS 2024.
Sonia Saini

Australia’s industrial HVAC&R sector is shifting to a new generation of ammonia (R717) technologies that have lower charge, higher efficiency and better safety, according to Greg Clements, Head of Sales – Compression, at GEA in Australia.

Clements explained to Jan Dusek, Co-Founder and COO of ATMOsphere, in an exclusive interview at the Air Conditioning Refrigeration and Building Services (ARBS) trade show in Sydney, held May 28–30. ATMOsphere is the publisher of NaturalRefrigerants.com.

In the interview, Clements also shared an update on GEA’s operations in Australia and discussed the country’s growing interest in heat pumps.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Can you give us an update on GEA’s business in Australia over the last few years?

Greg Clements: Like with everybody, the pandemic was difficult. But there have been so many lessons learned, including how to do business differently. In some ways I would say we now do business smarter and more cost effectively than prior to the pandemic.

Industrial refrigeration actually boomed throughout the pandemic, which was interesting. At the end of the day, people have got to eat, and for people to eat, the food has got to be kept refrigerated. I think this trend will continue as Australia’s population grows, particularly in cities. While the Australian market is generally considered mature, there are still growth opportunities in some sectors. More people equals more food.

How would you describe your current business, and which areas are you seeing growth in?

G.C.: Our business in Australia is made up of three core products: screw compressors, reciprocating compressors and chillers – all ammonia, although high-pressure applications may include CO2 [R744]. We see the market is moving from traditional liquid overfeed to new-generation systems with lower charge, higher efficiency and better safety.

Low-charge ammonia systems are becoming more mainstream, and from that our reciprocating compressor technology, which is well suited to low-charge systems, is growing. Specifically, the part-load technology with piston compressors. And then when you couple it with variable-speed technology, you get all the benefits from reduced energy consumption. If you look at what’s happened in the last two to three years, low-charge ammonia is at the forefront, no question.

If you look at what’s happened in the last two to three years, low-charge ammonia is at the forefront, no question.

Greg Clements, GEA Australia

We’ve heard recently that low-charge ammonia is gaining steam in Australia. Is that the extent of things on the ammonia front, or is there more going on?

G.C.: Our critically-charged chillers are also making ground. These plug-and-play units include a compressor, drive motor, oil separators, switchboard, evaporator and condenser. You just drop it onsite – be that indoor or outdoor – connect up the hydraulics and power, and away it goes. Depending on the application, you have ammonia refrigerant in the unit and then you pump chilled glycol or water out around the rest of the site’s system.

With this approach, you’re not pumping tons of refrigerant around the site, the system’s refrigerant charge might be as low as 50kg [110lbs], all of which is contained in the machine room. There is no excess refrigerant in the system. It’s always being used. All those issues with liquid overfeed systems are gone.

GEA is also expanding its product portfolio in Australia with the introduction of heat pumps. How do you see this market changing?

G.C.: Compared to Europe, the heat pump market in Australia is less advanced for a variety of reasons. That said, data I’ve gathered over the last six years shows that interest in heat pumps here has increased extensively. The groups of stakeholders showing interest have also changed significantly since 2018. Before it was basically just contractors, but now it’s also consultants and end users.

We’ve already got a number of heat pump projects in the market, including a soft drink manufacturer, an abattoir and a chocolate manufacturer, demonstrating the versatility of our technology.

GEA has a massive development program for its heat pumps to offer more variety in terms of temperature and application. For example, the RedGenium heat pump has limitations on how low it can go on the cooling side and how high it can go on the heating side. There’s a lot of work going on to open up the temperature-pressure difference so that it can be applied to a wider variety of applications.

In terms of temperature capabilities, with a RedGenium and its 63bar [913psi] Grasso V XHP compressor, we can go up to 95°C [203°F] on the heat side.

In Australia, we’re currently offering the same lineup as in Europe. Moving forward, the focus is on refinement rather than expansion.

Are HFCs still competing in larger HVAC&R projects in Australia?

G.C.: I think HFCs are unfortunately still relatively present in the commercial sector, with a lot of work still to be done there. In the industrial sector, however, there is not as much work to be done.

Across the board, everything GEA does is natural refrigerants, with the natural refrigerant depending on the application.

For example, for lower-capacity projects, transcritical CO2 is definitely competitive. However, once you get up over a particular capacity threshold, there is no competitor to ammonia. If you look at its heat transfer capabilities per kilogram of refrigerant, there is no competition to ammonia.

Across the board, everything GEA does is natural refrigerants, with the natural refrigerant depending on the application.

Greg Clements, GEA Australia

The company is seeing particular interest in industrial steam generation applications.
Sonia Saini

In response to surging demand for heat pumps, especially in steam generation applications, Finnish manufacturer Vahterus is set to expand its production capacity by 20%. Founder and CEO Mauri Kontu revealed this development in a recent interview with NaturalRefrigerants.com.

Headquartered in Kalanti, Finland, Vahterus plans to augment its existing 30,000m² (322,917 ft²) production space with a new 6,000m² (64,583 ft²) manufacturing hall. This expansion follows a record-breaking year in 2023 and is aimed at sustaining the companys growth trajectory, particularly within the heat pump market. Kontu emphasized the increasing demand for steam generation in industrial settings.

“[Our] next generation [of products] is for steam generation because many customers have steam generators with oil boilers, and now [they] want to change to heat pumps,” he told Marc Chasserot, Founder and CEO of ATMOsphere, publisher of NaturalRefrigerants.com, during the interview. “We have very good heat exchangers for that, and we have many years of experience with steam generators.”

In addition to its Finnish facility, Vahterus operates a manufacturing plant in Jiangsu, China, and is seeking a new, larger site to replace its former Pennsylvania, U.S., location.

With a growing interest in heat pumps, Vahterus hosted a Heat Pump Forum in Turku, Finland, on May 22–23. The event brought together more than 180 participants from around the world to discuss the latest developments in industrial applications.

Customization and innovation

During the interview, Kontu highlighted Vahterus’s extensive range of heat exchangers, which are customized to meet diverse customer needs. Thanks to its sophisticated customization software, the company offers seven billion variations of its heat exchangers, tailored in terms of materials, diameters, and thicknesses. Most of these exchangers feature stainless steel plates, while titanium versions are designed for seawater applications. Each unit can contain thousands of plates, typically 1.5–1.7mm (0.06–0.07in) thick.

Annually, Vahterus manufactures around 5,000 heat exchangers for 100 international clients. Their products serve a variety of sectors, including industrial, refrigeration and heat pump applications, such as district heating and food processing.

While ammonia (R717)-based systems account for about 50% of Vahterus’s business, there is growing interest in other natural refrigerants like CO2 (R744) and propane (R290).

Kontu noted the historic limitations of traditional plate heat exchangers, which used rectangular plates with four holes and rubber gaskets. Vahterus, however, has pioneered a fully-welded plate and shell heat exchanger design with only two holes, enhancing pressure and temperature capabilities and offering higher thermal efficiency. This innovative design ensures durability, with an operational lifespan of up to 30 years.

However, Vahterus has developed a fully-welded plate and shell heat exchanger that includes only two holes, enhancing pressure and temperature capabilities and offering higher thermal efficiency. This design ensures durability, with an operational lifespan of up to 30 years, according to the manufacturer.

“Innovation in heat transfer is very low, [but] we have found something new to the market,” he added.

Building a skilled workforce

Vahterus’s expansion isn’t limited to its facilities. The company is also committed to developing a robust workforce. It sponsors a heat transfer professorship and actively recruits students from the nearby University of Turku. Additionally, to address a shortage of welders in Finland, Vahterus has implemented programs to attract skilled workers from countries such as the Philippines and Nigeria.

The Philippines-based company distributes HVAC&R tools and components domestically and around the world.
Sonia Saini

Magic-Aire Industries, a Philippines-based distributor of HVAC&R tools and components, has joined the world’s leading natural refrigerant HVAC&R stakeholders as a silver partner of the NaturalRefrigerants.com marketplace.

Magic-Aire was founded in 1994 in Manila, originally as an air-conditioning and refrigeration servicing company. Citing “strong market demand,” the company moved into the distribution space and today provides products from more than 50 brands across Asia, Europe and the Americas, including Copeland, Danfoss and Tecumseh.

Along with components and tools, its product catalog includes window and wall-mounted air conditioners, condensing units and refrigerant, which includes R290 (propane) and R600a (isobutane).

“Looking forward, Magic-Aire aims to develop its offering for natural refrigerants and calls on global partners looking for a distributor in the Philippines and well beyond,” the company said.

Supporting NatRefs

Magic-Aire is a contributor to the Cold Chain Innovation (CCI) Hub, which serves as the centralized knowledge-sharing platform of the Global Partnership for Improving the Food Cold Chain in the Philippines (FCC) project. The FCC project’s goal is to identify and encourage the development of low-carbon and energy-efficient refrigeration technologies and business practices throughout the Philippines’ food cold chain.

The FCC is a collaboration between the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Global Environment Fund, TESDA and ATMOsphere, publisher of NaturalRefrigerants.com.

CCI-Hub is responsible for sharing technical resources, training and knowledge and facilitating stakeholder collaboration. Magic-Aire has brought tools and equipment to events at the hub. In addition, Magic-Aire recently partnered with CCI-Hub to supply and install five solar chest freezers to support the fishing industry in the Philippine municipality of Carles.

Recent firsts

Thanks to the work of the FCC project and the CCI-Hub, with the former providing co-financing to the latter for natural refrigerant demonstration projects, the Philippines has recently achieved several firsts in natural refrigerants.

In October 2023, the country’s first transcritical CO2 (R744) cold storage facility – featuring Nihon Netsugen Systems’ (NNS) Super Green CO2 unit. – opened in Roxas City. In December of that year, the first CO2 blast freezer was installed at a food processing facility in Pasig City, replacing a 15-year-old ammonia (R717)-based blast freezer. That product also featured an NNS Super Green unit.

More recently, five R290 transport refrigeration units (TRUs) – the first propane TRUs in the country –were distributed to two cold chain logistics companies. The ECOS M 24 refrigeration units were manufactured by Austrian startup pbx.

“Looking forward, Magic-Aire aims to develop its offering for natural refrigerants and calls on global partners looking for a distributor in the Philippines and well beyond.”

Magic-Aire Industries

The awards, honoring excellence in the implementation of natural refrigerant-based systems, were presented during a ceremony on June 10 at the ATMOsphere America Summit.
Sonia Saini

ATMOsphere, publisher of NaturalRefrigerants.com and organizer of the the ATMOsphere (ATMO) America Summit 2024 on natural refrigerant-based cooling and heating, announced the winners of the ATMO Awards/North America for 2024 during a ceremony on June 10 at the Summit in Washington, D.C.

The awards honor excellence in the development and implementation of natural refrigerant-based HVAC&R systems. Awards were given in four categories:

  • Best-in-Sector/Retail End User – to Target; accepting the award was Cara Bastoni, Director of Engineering for Target.
  • Best-in-Sector/Industrial End User – to Lineage Logistics; accepting the award was Nova-Aer Teale, Director of Engineering for Lineage Logistics.
  • Innovation of the Year – to Dorin for its 160HP CO2 industrial compressor; accepting the award was Brian Porter, General Director of Dorin USA.
  • Person of the Year – to Danielle Wright, Executive Director for North American Sustainable Refrigeration Council (NASRC)

The awards were based on industry nominations and other criteria. The Best-in-Sector awards were selected by ATMOsphere, which also prepared a shortlist of the Person of the Year and Innovation of the Year finalists. Online voting leading up to and at ATMO America determined the winner of the Person of the Year and Innovation of the Year awards.

Best-in-Sector/End Users

The Best-in-Sector awards are given to end users, one retail and one industrial, who have done the most to advance adoption of natural refrigerant-based systems.

Minneapolis-based Target, the 2024 Best-in-Sector/Retail End User winner, which operates almost 2,000 stores in the U.S. and Canada, has become a leader in the use of natural refrigerant-based refrigeration as part of an aggressive greenhouse gas emissions-reduction program.

This has been manifested in a number of ways:

  • Target has installed transcritical CO2 (R744) refrigeration in more than 109 stores and plans to scale low-GWP refrigerants chain-wide by 2040.
  • Since 2016, Target has required all new stand-alone cases to use propane (R290) refrigerant, with over 22,000 systems installed to date.
  • All Target food distribution centers use ammonia (R717) refrigeration systems.
  • Target is an EPA GreenChill partner and has a 13% average HFC leak rate.
  • In 2022, Target retrofitted a Vista, California, location to become its first designed net-zero energy store and a model for the chain. The store, which uses transcritical CO2 refrigeration, generates renewable energy through 3,400 solar panels across its roof and carport canopies. The site was designed to produce up to a 10% energy surplus each year that it can transmit back to the local power grid. The store also powers its HVAC heating through rooftop solar panels instead of natural gas.
  • By 2030, Target is committed to achieving a 50% absolute reduction in operations GHG emissions (Scopes 1 and 2) from a 2017 base year.
  • Via its sustainability strategy called Target Forward, the retailer has committed to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions enterprise-wide by 2040.

Novi, Michigan-based Lineage Logistics, the 2024 Best-in-Sector/Industrial End User winner, operates more than 450 cold-storage facilities around the world, including 40 in the U.S. As of last year, around 90% (3 million lbs/1.4 million kg) of its global refrigerant inventory was made up of ammonia, but f-gases were still used at 85 of Lineage’s locations around the world. However, it has launched a plan to convert those facilities to 100% natural refrigerants. Having grown through acquisitions, the vast majority of the company’s facilities are different, so there’s no one-size-fits-all system that can be implemented.

The plan includes:

  • Use ammonia, CO2, and other natural refrigerants as the first option for new builds, expansions, conversions; pilots have started in 2024.
  • Limit the use of non-natural refrigerants to only as the last option.
  • Energy-efficient design, operation and maintenance.

In September 2021, Lineage joined The Climate Pledge with the aim of becoming carbon net zero by 2040, 10 years ahead of the Paris Climate Accord’s 2050 target. To achieve this goal, the company has established science-based targets for its Scope 1 (direct), Scope 2 (indirect – energy) and Scope 3 (indirect – value chain) emissions; scope 1 emissions reduction includes higher equipment efficiencies, better containment and refrigerant recovery, reclaim and recycling. This is outlined in its 2022 Sustainability Report.

For example, to decrease energy use and increase throughput associated with blast freezing and static storage methods, Lineage Logistics conducted research into the ideal time-to-freeze for optimized energy use and actual freezing time. In its Portsmouth, Virginia, facility, its new blast freezing method reduced the average blast time from 72 to 24 hours.

Lineage also uses “flywheeling” to predicts when electricity demand will be highest and then cools warehouses to a lower-than-normal temperature in advance, avoiding peak energy charges and alleviating the demand load on the electrical grid.

Innovation of the Year

The Innovation of the Year award is given to the company that has produced a natural refrigerant-based product that has had, or is expected to have, a significant impact on the market.

The shortlist of candidates for the award consisted of Hillphoenix’s ChargeSecure system, Copeland’s Vilter-branded industrial CO2 compressor unit that uses single-screw compressors, Dorin’s 160HP CO2 industrial reciprocating compressor and Evapco’s VersaSplit ammonia-based condensing unit with up to six remote evaporators.

Part of its CD600 range, Dorin’s 160HP CO2 industrial reciprocating compressor, the 2024 Innovation of the Year winner, comes with six cylinders and offers 4,237ft3/h (120m3/h) at 60Hz and a capacity of 68.3TR (240kW) for typical medium-temperature applications, with frequency drive capability. Previous models covered up to 90HP and 2,506ft3/h (70m3/h) at 60Hz.

The compressor maintains the same footprint as smaller models with a higher COP and is a cost-effective way to scale up the refrigeration duty with a single rack and no modifications to the rack design.

With its CD600 range of compressors, Dorin “sets a new benchmark for industrial [transcritical CO2] applications, allowing [R744] to be one of the most cost-effective and efficient solutions when it comes to large [capacities],” the company said.

Person of the Year

 The Person of the Year Award honors a single individual who has done the most to advance the adoption of natural refrigerant technology in HVAC&R applications in North America.

The shortlist of candidates for the award consisted of Danielle Wright, Executive Director for North American Sustainable Refrigeration Council (NASRC); Scott Martin, Senior Director of Industry Relations and Compliance for Hillphoenix; Kurt Liebendorfer, Vice President of Evapco; and the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) team of Avipsa Mahapatra, Director, Climate Campaign; Christina Starr, Senior Manager, Climate; and Beth Porter, Senior Climate Policy Analyst.

Wright, the 2024 Person of the Year, leads the North American Sustainable Refrigeration Council (NASRC), a nonprofit that helps the supermarket industry in North America overcome the barriers to the adoption of natural refrigerant-based refrigeration systems. Since becoming Executive Director of the NASRC in 2017, Wright has worked to expand the group’s membership, scope and impact considerably. Its members now include over 160 organizations from every sector of the commercial refrigeration industry, including more than 55,000 food retail locations.

Among the NASRC’s activities are:

  • Coordinating funding to offset the upfront costs of natural refrigerant technologies: NASRC has become a third-party administrator for the California Air Resources Board’s F-gas Reduction Incentive Program (FRIP). The program aims to reduce high-GWP emissions by incentivizing the adoption of climate-friendly –particularly ultra-low GWP (GWP less than 10) – technologies. NASRC also works with New York State on its grant program to replace HFC refrigeration.
  • Training: NASRC has launched a successful Technician Training Program on the latest natural refrigerant technologies for refrigeration technicians with a series of training events in three states. More than 1,600 people have attended the events, with over 900 technicians and more than 370 HVAC&R students and faculty. The organization also now offers private small-group, vendor-neutral courses.

NASRC also advises government agencies on policy and technical applications and contributes to industry best practices, standard and codes.

The company’s Managing Director spoke to NaturalRefrigerants.com about HFO regulations, training and resistance to ammonia AC.
Sonia Saini

Australia has made strides in adopting natural refrigerants, with Queensland recently granting its first compliance certificate for large-scale propane (R290) heat pumps and chillers and end users like Woolworths strongly embracing transcritical CO2 (R744). However, natural refrigerants still face roadblocks in the country, according to Stefan Jensen, Managing Director at Scantec Refrigeration Technologies.

Jensen laid out those impediments in an exclusive interview with Jan Dusek, ATMOsphere’s Co-Founder and COO. ATMOsphere is the publisher of NaturalRefrigerants.com.

The two main problems he cited were a lack of policy direction for HFO refrigerants that degenerate into PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), including TFA (trifluoroacetic acid), and the lack of appropriately trained personnel to work with natural refrigerants.

In the interview, Jensen also expressed his frustration with the “market resistance” in Australia to ammonia (R717)-based solutions for large-scale air-conditioning projects.

Scantec provides low-charge ammonia solutions and transcritical CO2 packages for commercial and industrial applications.

“It’s not a technical problem to get ammonia chillers into what some people call hydronic air-conditioning, but there are many people in Australia who cannot see that this is the future.”

Stefan Jensen, Managing Director of Scantec Refrigeration Technologies

Refrigerant policy

As of late 2023, the connection between HFO refrigerants and the generation of TFA and other PFAS in the environment had no bearing on Australian refrigerant policy, according to Jensen.

Before passing away in February 2024, Patrick McInerney served as the Director of the Mercury, Ozone and Climate Protection Section at the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (DCCEEW). The department, tasked with protecting Australia’s natural environment, sets policies and programs to address climate change and preserve water resources.

“In a meeting with the DCCEEW in Canberra near the end of 2023, I had a colleague directly ask the late Patrick McInerney if the stuff we are hearing about PFAS and HFOs would have a bearing on the Australian policy regarding refrigerants, and McInerney simply said, ‘No, it would not,’” Jensen remarked.

An increasing number of studies, including those from the U.S., China and Australia, link the degradation of HFOs, particularly HFO-1234yf and HFO-1234ze(E), both of which have a 100-year GWP of less than 1, to the formation of the super greenhouse gas HFC-23, which has a 100-year GWP of 14,600.

At the 35th Meeting of the Parties (MOP) to the United Nations Montreal Protocol in Nairobi, Kenya, the delegates tasked the three scientific panels that support the Protocol’s decision-making with analyzing the risks related to PFAS, including TFA. According to the United Nations Environmental Program Ozone Secretariat, McInerney attended the 35th MOP held October 23‒27, 2023.

“[McInerney] participated in all the meetings of the parties over the last 20 years or more, so he was certainly involved in all the HFC phase-down policy discussions,” Jensen said, indicating that he has not followed the news concerning McInerney’s replacement and whether that would alter Australia’s policy direction.

Australian cities have started to take a stand on refrigerants, with Parramatta City, New South Wales, leading the charge. In its Development Control Plan – a city planning document – published in December 2022, the city requires new HVAC&R equipment to have a GWP of less than 10.

“Using natural refrigerants will reduce the impact of the emissions,” the city council said.

Training issues

Another issue facing the rapid uptake of natural refrigerant solutions in Australia is the lack of appropriately trained natural refrigerant personnel.

“As far as training is concerned, we are taking on more and more apprentices because we can’t get people,” Jensen said. “We have to train them.”

Inderpal Saund, Business Development Director APAC for Beijer Ref Australia, agrees with Jensen. In a presentation at the ATMOsphere APAC Summit 2024, held February 6–7 in Tokyo, Saund said the APAC region’s ability to embrace the past two decades of advancements in refrigeration technology will depend on training. Very few “everyday” technicians in the area work with ammonia, CO2 or propane, he added.

Fortunately for Jensen, training the next generation of ammonia refrigeration experts hits close to home. He told Dusek that his oldest son takes care of the detailed engineering for Scantec and that his youngest just qualified as a refrigeration mechanic. However, Jensen is not ready to pass on the torch.

“I don’t want to stop working because I like the work,” he said.

Read Part 1 of Our Interview With Stefan Jensen

Ammonia-based air-conditioning

Jensen also shared his frustration with the resistance in Australia to ammonia refrigerant in large-scale air-conditioning projects.

In 2010, Scantec replaced an air-cooled R22 air-conditioning system in a Logan City public building south of Brisbane with a water-cooled ammonia-based system. According to Jensen, the new system cut the air-conditioning energy consumption of the building roughly in half.

Jensen conducted a 2019 follow-up report on that installation, looking at refrigerant losses, energy consumption and maintenance costs. “We exceeded the customer’s expectations in every respect,” he told Dusek, adding that the ammonia charge has “never been replenished” in more than 10 years.

However, the Australian market “is resisting ammonia-based air-conditioning technology,” said Jensen, commenting that Europe does not seem to feel the same way, pointing to its successful use in the Terminal 5 project in the U.K.’s Heathrow Airport.

“It’s not a technical problem to get ammonia chillers into what some people call hydronic air-conditioning, but there are many people in Australia who cannot see that this is the future,” Jensen said.

He did state that over the past few years, Scantec has seen a rise in demand for its industrial-sized centralized low-charge ammonia refrigeration systems, with its “order book full for the 2024‒2025 financial year and a little beyond.” In a 2021 ATMOsphere interview, he predicted this would eventually happen due to the energy efficiencies provided by the refrigerant with the correct system design.

ChargeSecure is designed to offer a layer of security to food retailers using the OEM’s CO2 systems.
Sonia Saini

U.S. OEM Hillphoenix has announced the launch of ChargeSecure, a charge preservation system for CO2 (R744) refrigeration systems that “offers peace of mind during power outages and service events,” the company said.

Designed specifically for Hillphoenix CO2 systems, ChargeSecure minimizes downtime during power outages and service events by maintaining the charge in the refrigeration system. When the power comes back on, the system can restart immediately – “helping stores get back up and running faster,” said Hillphoenix.

“With our decades of experience in natural refrigeration systems, we designed ChargeSecure to offer a layer of security for food retailers using our CO2 systems, so they can get back to doing what they do best – serving their customers,” said Ousama Sabra, Systems Senior Product Manager at Hillphoenix.

ChargeSecure uses the existing CO2 in the system to operate instead of relying on legacy refrigerants.

“As the adoption of CO2 refrigeration systems continues to accelerate, ChargeSecure addresses the growing need for a charge preservation solution with a low-GWP impact,” Sabra said.

ChargeSecure automatically kicks in when it detects a power outage and/or pressure increase beyond a predefined threshold. It maintains the CO2 pressure in the flash tank by compressing it into the gas cooler and then expanding it back into the flash tank.

According to Hillphoenix, benefits of ChargeSecure include:

  • Cost Savings: Retailers can avoid the time and expense of recharging CO2, while also helping protect perishable goods from loss.
  • Low Power Consumption: Requiring only 1.5amps to operate, it uses six times less energy than conventional charge preservation units.
  • Flexible Installation: It can be mounted on the wall or floor – anywhere within 15 feet of the rack – indoors or outdoors.
  • Small Footprint: With no heat exchanger required, its compact footprint measures 12.75in by 18.8in (32.4cm by 47.8cm).
  • Extended Operation: Backup battery provides prolonged periods of continuous operation.

For retrofits, ChargeSecure features plug-and-play integration into existing Hillphoenix CO2 racks. Hillphoenix will be offering factory-installed ChargeSecure units in new racks.

“As the adoption of CO2 refrigeration systems continues to accelerate, ChargeSecure addresses the growing need for a charge preservation solution with a low-GWP impact.”

Ousama Sabra, Systems Senior Product Manager at Hillphoenix

 

The Cold Chain Innovation Hub has also delivered one CO2-based marine refrigeration unit under the same initiative.
Sonia Saini

Two Filipino cold chain logistics companies, InsightSCS and Ideamorphosis, have received the Philippines’ first five propane (R290)-based transport refrigeration units as part of their demonstration projects under the Cold Chain Innovation (CCI) Hub.

Icebox Logistics Services, a domestic freight company, has also received a 6m (20ft)-long, CO2 (R744)-based NaturaLINE marine refrigeration unit from Carrier-Transicold via the same initiative.

These projects are among the 10 demonstration projects to receive co-financing through the Global Partnership for Improving the Food Cold Chain in the Philippines (FCC) via the CCI Hub, which aims to enhance sustainability practices in the county’s cold chain sector.

“As early adopters of energy-efficient, low-carbon cold chain technologies using natural refrigerants, [the recipient companies] are expected to serve as models for the industry to adopt greener and more sustainable approaches,” explained the CCI-Hub.

The units were presented to the recipients during a hand-over ceremony at the CCI-Hub in Manila in March. The event was attended by key government officials, project partners, industry leaders and end users.

“This is a big day for the transport sector in the Philippines,” explained Jan Dusek, Head of Global Partnerships at CCI-Hub and Co-Founder and COO of ATMOsphere, publisher of NaturalRefrigerants.com. “These natural refrigerant technologies have been transforming the global cold chain landscape for the past couple of years, and we are seeing more interest in the Philippines. The CCI-Hub will continue to connect the local industry and serve as a go-to place for those who want to learn more about these innovations.”

“These natural refrigerant technologies have been transforming the global cold chain landscape for the past couple of years, and we are seeing more interest in the Philippines.”

Jan Dusek, CCI-Hub/ATMOsphere

Sustainable transport refrigeration

The ECOS M24 units, from Austrian startup pbx, were installed by local contractor Cold Front Technologies Asia.

Cold Front first introduced the propane-based technology to the Philippine market in early 2023 when it was showcased at the CCI-Hub alongside other R290 refrigeration technologies.

“These R290 units are [the] first in the Philippines,” explained Emilio Gonzalez La’O, President at Cold Front. “We see many advantages with these systems here with our logistical challenges.”

In addition to reduced emissions from using natural refrigerants, the units are significantly more energy and fuel efficient compared to alternatives, he said. They also help to maintain the vehicle’s engine. The lightweight unit enables 15% higher payload, reduces fuel costs and contains just 140g (4.94oz) of propane per unit, he added.

Insulation panels from Filipino manufacturer Centro Nippon Fruehauf Cooltech were also used in the refrigerated bodies of the trucks.

Jan Dusek, CCI-Hub and ATMOsphere, with three of the R290-based refrigerated trucks at the hand-over ceremony. (Source: CCI Hub)
Jan Dusek, CCI-Hub and ATMOsphere, with three of the R290-based refrigerated trucks at the hand-over ceremony. (Source: CCI Hub)

The Philippines’ cold chain

The FCC-support pilot projects are designed to help demonstrate how improved cold chains can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, operational costs and food loss in the Philippines.

Projects must use low-carbon, natural refrigerant-based technologies to be eligible for funding, which can cover up to 80% of project costs.

Other projects to receive co-financing under the initiative include plug-in propane refrigeration units at a non-profit farming project and the Philippines’ first transcritical CO2-based cold chain facility and blast freezer.

The FCC is implemented by the Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Philippine Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and ATMOsphere in collaboration with the Board of Investments – National Cold Chain Committee and the cold chain industry.

“The Cold Chain Innovation Hub is a testament of our partnership with the industry,” said Al Orolfo, Foreign Assisted and Special Projects Services Director at DENR, at the hand-over ceremony. “As the FCC project nears its completion, we hope that this initiative to promote alternative technologies using natural refrigerants will continue in anticipation of the Kigali phasedown schedule.”

“The Cold Chain Innovation Hub is a testament of our partnership with the industry. As the FCC project nears its completion, we hope that this initiative to promote alternative technologies using natural refrigerants will continue in anticipation of the Kigali phasedown schedule.”

Al Orolfo, DENR

NatRefs in transport

While R404A is still the most commonly used refrigerant in transport refrigeration, the sector’s attention is shifting to natural alternatives as the world works to phase down the use of HFCs under the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol. There are now numerous examples of natural refrigerant-based technologies, but adoption is relatively limited.

In August 2022, German manufacturer ECOOLTEC released its TM182, an electrically driven transport refrigeration unit that uses a small charge of the hydrocarbon propylene (R1270) as the primary refrigerant, together with CO2 in the secondary circuit. The unit is designed to be used for trucks.

As of April 2023, a “significant number” of ECOOLTEC’s refrigeration units had been installed in Europe, including for a food wholesale company in southern Germany.

Earlier in 2024, Tesco, the U.K.’s leading supermarket chain, took delivery of two refrigerated trucks that use ECOOLTEC’s TM182 refrigeration units, becoming the first company in the country to adopt the technology.

The TM182 was named Innovation of the Year/Refrigeration at the European ATMO Awards 2023.

In its current form, the regulation would apply to transport refrigeration units built after December 31, 2032.
Sonia Saini

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) is considering a “potential regulatory concept” that would require transport refrigeration units (TRUs) built after December 31, 2032, to use a refrigerant with a maximum GWP of 5.

The GWP limit was discussed during a public TRU regulation concepts development workshop hosted by CARB on May 22. It would apply to truck, trailer, domestic shipping container and railcar TRUs but not to TRU generator sets, removable refrigeration units for trailers and containers.

A work in progress: The concept is part of a larger CARB regulatory push to transition diesel-powered TRUs to zero-emission technologies, such as electricity, hydrogen and liquid nitrogen.

  • The impetus for the transition is Executive Order N-79-20, issued by California Governor Gavin Newsom in 2020, which set a goal for 100% zero-emission off-road vehicles and equipment in California by 2035. 
  • A 2022 amendment to CARB’s Transport Refrigeration Unit Airborne Toxic Control Measure (TRU ACTM) requires all truck TRUs operating in California to be zero-emission by December 31, 2029.
  • “CARB will use stakeholder input gathered to refine a potential regulation, but a regulation has not yet been formally proposed or adopted,” Lynda Lambert, Information Officer II at CARB, told NaturalRefrigerants.com. “If CARB does proceed with the requirement, any staff analysis and rationale for proposing such a requirement will be included in the staff report, which is not expected until 2026.”

A massive drop: If this concept were to become a regulation, it would represent a major change from the current GWP limit of 2,200 for newly manufactured TRUs, which went into force December 31, 2022.

  • CARB estimates that, of all the non-truck TRU operations in California, 82% are trailer TRUs, 16% are TRU generator sets, and 2% are domestic shipping container and railcar TRUs.
  • Under the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act’s “Technology Transitions” rule, intermodal refrigerated transport containers “with exiting fluid temperature from a chiller equal to or above –50°C (–58°F)” cannot use a refrigerant with a GWP exceeding 700 from January 1, 2025.

NatRef alternatives: While the majority of transport refrigeration units use f-gas refrigerants, natural refrigerant alternatives using CO2 (R744) and hydrocarbons such as propylene (R1270) are available.

  • German manufacturer ECOOLTEC’s TM182, a propylene/CO2 TRU powered by electricity, went on sale in Europe in 2023. In April, U.K. supermarket chain Tesco took delivery of two trucks equipped with the TM182.
  • Carrier Transicold’s NaturaLINE marine container refrigeration unit uses CO2, with the company saying it “delivers sustainability and efficiency equal to our best-in-class performer.”
  • In 2021, Italian gas provider SIAD debuted the COOL FreeToGo, a TRU that used the evaporation of liquid CO2 as opposed to the traditional vapor compression cycle, to provide cooling.
With ongoing preparations for large-scale manufacturing, the company plans to open orders for 230 and 350kW models this fall.
Sonia Saini

Czech Republic-based Mirai Intex, a manufacturer of ultra-low-temperature systems using air-cycle technology, has announced the completion of stress testing on what it is calling the “world’s first” propane (R290) turbo compressor.

The company has also announced that it is preparing for large-scale manufacturing of the new centrifugal/axial compressors, which are designed for commercial and industrial applications. It plans to open orders for its MT230 and MT350 models in late September or early October. The MT230 has a cooling capacity of 230kW (65TR), with the MT350 offering a cooling capacity of 350kW (100TR).

“The introduction of the MT230 and MT350 turbo compressors marks a significant shift toward more sustainable and efficient cooling technologies,” Mirai Intex told NaturalRefrigerants.com.

The technology: According to Mirai Intex, development on its R290 turbo compressor “started years ago,” with the company relying on its “extensive experience” with air-turbo refrigeration machines. The company was awarded Innovation of the Year at the 2019 ATMOsphere Europe Summit for its COLD 15 air-cycle refrigeration machine, which provides cooling down to −130°C (−202°F) using ambient air. ATMOsphere is the publisher of NaturalRefrigerants.com.

  • The gas bearings on the R290 turbo compressor allow oil-free operation, which the company said reduces capital costs and maintenance requirements and ensures stability in power outages.
  • Mirai Intex indicates designing the unit for a 20-year continuous operation lifespan “without the need for maintenance or intervention.”
  • According to the company, the unit operates vibration-free with “extremely” low noise levels compared to other compressor technologies, while “advanced controls” manage gas pressure and flow rates to optimize operation.

New markets: Mirai Intex is known for its air-cycle refrigeration machines, which provide cooling at −40 to −110°C (−40 to −166°F) for use in numerous industries, including pharmaceutical, freeze drying, steel hardening, frozen tuna storage, semiconductor manufacturing and more. Its new propane compressors support medium- and low- temperature cooling ranges, moving the company into new markets.

  • “This development opens opportunities, particularly with manufacturers of water- and air-cooled chillers for industrial and commercial applications,” the company told NaturalRefrigerants.com.
  • Mirai Intex also said it expects the compressors “to become highly demanded” by heat pump manufacturers for their ability to increase performance and reduce operating costs.
  • Though it will be released globally, the unit’s initial availability will focus on regions with “strong commercial and industrial refrigeration sectors keen on adopting sustainable technologies, such as Europe,” Mirai Intex told NaturalRefrigerants.com.

What it means for NatRefs: The new R290 turbo compressors provide a natural refrigerant alternative to centrifugal compressors using f-gas refrigerants. This alternative is important because HFO-1234ze, commonly used in centrifugal compressors, was recently found by researchers to react with ozone when released into the atmosphere and form R23, a super greenhouse gas with a 100-year GWP of 14,800.

  • “As the first turbo compressor to utilize propane, [it] sets a new standard for environmentally friendly refrigeration, addressing the growing regulatory and market demand for low-GWP refrigerants,” the company told NaturalRefrigerants.com.

Quotable: “As the first turbo compressor using propane, with oil-free operation and an advanced control range, it offers superior performance and energy efficiency, which can lead to reduced operational costs and a smaller environmental footprint for end users,” the company told NaturalRefrigerants.com. “This innovation highlights [our] commitment to environmental sustainability.”

The ATMO Approved label is a global gold standard highlighting best-in-class manufacturers and contractors of natural refrigerant systems and components.
Sonia Saini

ATMOsphere, a global market accelerator of clean cooling and heating solutions, and publisher of NaturalRefrigerants.com, has approved the ATMO Approved Natural Refrigerants Label for Canadian industrial refrigeration manufacturer Ceptek.

Ceptek is a subsidiary of Canadian commercial and light-industrial refrigeration manufacturer RefPlus, which acquired Ceptek last year.

ATMOsphere (formerly shecco) launched the label in June 2022 as a global gold standard highlighting best-in-class manufacturers of natural refrigerant systems and components around the world. Labels were also approved in 2023 for SCM Frigo, M&M Carnot, Zudek, MIRAI Intex, Novum and Temprite. In 2024, GTS, Nihon Netsugen Systems, Refra and Zero-C have been approved, Fenagy has been reapproved, and Secon, Güntner, TEKO, M&M Carnot, Zudek and Temprite have been reapproved for the second time.

In November 2023, ATMOsphere opened label registration for 2024 with a new category for contractors and installers who accelerate the adoption of natural refrigerant-based cooling and heating solutions. To date, contractors Equans Kältetechnik, SURE Solutions and General Refrigeration have been approved for the label.

“Ceptek’s mission is to lead the way in transforming the refrigeration industry in its transition to natural refrigerants while maximizing energy efficiency,” said Mathieu Cardinal, President and CEO of RefPlus. “Applying for the ATMO Approved Label fits our corporate mission, and we believe that being recognized as a best-in-class natural refrigerants company reaffirms our commitment to environmentally-friendly practices, driving innovation, and leading the charge towards a greener future.”

The ATMOsphere label is designed to help qualified manufacturers to market products to new customers and regions in the natural refrigerants marketplace, including products using CO2 (R744) and ammonia (R717). In addition, the label is meant to help end users identify best-in-class suppliers.

Once approved, companies can place the ATMOsphere Natural Refrigerant Label in a myriad of places, such as directly on products, marketing material, email signatures, company pitches and trade show booths.

“The label will be very visible in the global marketplace, and companies can take advantage of this to strengthen their brand,” noted Marc Chasserot, ATMOsphere’s Founder and CEO.

“By being global and multi-application, this label can help to create trust across the new applications and regions,” added Chasserot. “We want to use this multi-year label process to help move the market to cleaner solutions with natural refrigerant solutions over time.”

Founded in 2010, Granby, Quebec-based Ceptek company is a leading manufacturing of large-capacity CO2 and ammonia/CO2 cascade industrial equipment. The company designs and manufactures, among other things, central refrigeration systems, high-temperature industrial heat pumps, fluid coolers and technical rooms. In recent years, Ceptek has designed and developed numerous large-scale projects in the pharmaceutical, agri-food processing and fisheries sectors, among others, and has specialized in supporting companies in their energy transition and decarbonization efforts.

“Since its inception, Ceptek [has embraced] sustainability,” said Cardinal. “We believe that we owe it to our planet and future generations!”

Three pillars

To qualify for an ATMOsphere label, manufacturers have to demonstrate excellence across three pillars:

1) company vision;

2) customer satisfaction (measured via testimonials from multiple end users confirming the reliability, performance and service of these companies and products); and

3) measurable impact.

Commenting on a Ceptek CO2 refrigeration system installed in a supermarket, Patrick Blanchette, Refrigeration Director for Canadian contractor GNR Corbus, noted that the system is “very well built,” as well as “very reliable,” with “good performance and outstanding after-sales service.” He has found the company to be a “very conscientious manufacturer who is easy to communicate with,” adding, “Ceptek is an important business partner for us.”

 New criteria

The 2024 label also includes training criteria for the first time for new applications and renewals. “We want to recognize a proactive approach to training customers, partners, employees and suppliers to ensure we not only have the best-in-class equipment but the best-in-class installation and maintenance of these systems,” Chasserot said.

Another 2024 label criterion centers around per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), such as trifluoroacetic acid (TFA).

Recent research found significant levels of TFA – formed by the atmospheric breakdown of certain HFO and HFC refrigerants – in dust, drinking water and human blood in a study of households in Indiana (U.S.). The study characterized TFA as being part of the PFAS chemical family. TFA and TFE (another PFAS linked to HFOs) have pathways to forming HFC-23, a super potent greenhouse gas (GWP 14,600).

“The 2024 label criteria around PFAS acknowledges what companies are doing to ensure they are PFAS-free,” Chasserot said.

“ATMO Approved companies have the vision and leadership required to navigate the market today and help [companies] move away from PFAS and global-warming synthetic alternatives,” an ATMOsphere video says.

Additional new benefits added to the 2024 ATMO label include:

  • an annual report for environmental, social and governance (ESG) investors;
  • end-user tours at major trade shows to meet approved companies;
  • exclusive webinar targeting end users, consultants and contractors; and
  • end-user case studies, showcasing best practices.

ATMOsphere has been active in the natural refrigerant space for nearly 20 years. During this time, the company has:

  • published dozens of natural refrigerant-related market reports on market players, technologies and solutions worldwide across multiple applications;
  • hosted over 60 international natural refrigerant conferences, bringing together thousands of experts and hundreds of speakers over nearly 15 years, covering all the latest trends and players;
  • written thousands of articles reporting on natural refrigerant companies and products in the industry; and
  • sent representatives to hundreds of trade shows around the world, meeting with natural refrigerant experts face-to-face (in addition to countless individual meetings outside official events).

“We feel that, as an independent player with a global mindset and a global presence across all natural refrigerants and multiple applications, we are very well suited to provide this level of approval for the label,” explained Chasserot.

“We believe that being recognized as a best-in-class natural refrigerants company reaffirms our commitment to environmentally-friendly practices, driving innovation, and leading the charge towards a greener future.”

Mathieu Cardinal, President and CEO of RefPlus

 

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