Natural Refrigerants
Cooling & Heating Marketplace

World’s No1 source of news & insights about natural refrigerant based cooling and heating technologies since 2006.

We connect buyers worldwide with providers of leading solutions and technologies.

Do you need special insights on technology, market and regulatory trends? Our team of experts can help. Book a consultation here (fee applies).

Trusted by the world’s leading brands since 2006

Latest News

The organization promotes the rapid and healthy development of the Chinese heat pump industry and serves as a bridge and between the government and enterprises.
Sonia Saini

The China Heat Pump Alliance (CHPA), an industry organization supporting the adoption of heat pumps in China, has joined the world’s leading natural refrigerant HVAC&R stakeholders as a silver partner of ATMOsphere’s NaturalRefrigerants.com marketplace.

Established in August 2014, CHPA is the Heat Pump Professional Committee of the China Energy Conservation Association (CECA). CHPA’s predecessor was the China Heat Pump Industry Alliance, formed by CECA and the International Copper Association (China) in Shanghai on July 28, 2009.

CHPA is composed of enterprises and individuals engaged in research, production, operation, investment and consulting related to heat pumps in China. CHPA’s members include more than 400 major manufacturers and professional media in the heat pump industry, including Midea, Gree, Haier, China Broadcasting, New Energy, Seasons Midea, Sunrain, Finney, Highly, Emerson, Danfoss, Bioenergy, TCL, Tongyi, Tianshu, A.O. Smith, and Xinhu.

CHPA’s purpose is to integrate and coordinate industrial resources as well as improve the research, development, manufacturing, integration and service level of heat pump technology, products and business of its members. The organization promotes the rapid and healthy development of the heat pump industry and serves as a bridge and between the government and enterprises.

Hosting annual conference

CHPA will host the 2024 China Heat Pump Industry Annual Conference and China Heat Pump Forum (CHPF) in Shanghai, August 6–8. The conference will showcase the latest in heat pump innovation and provide an opportunity for stakeholders to connect and strategize, with the aim of enabling participants to learn about recent and future developments.

According to organizers, the CHPF is the world’s largest heat pump conference and is widely recognized as the “most significant global forum” for facilitating collaboration, engagement and innovation within the industry.

“This forum has consistently led the charge in promoting heat pump technologies and energizing the growth of the heat pump industry,” said Hengyi Zhao, General Secretary of CHPA. “Much progress has been made in the past twelve years, yet we are just warming up.”

In addition to the main forum, the conference will include seven sub-forums, each of which will cover a range of topics impacting the sector. Sessions will include presentations from major manufacturers and experts from various national and international organizations like the International Energy Agency (IEA), the European Heat Pump Association, the Heat Pump and Thermal Storage Technology Center of Japan (HPTCJ) and ATMOsphere.

According to the CHPA, China is currently at the center of heat pump research, product development and manufacturing, making the CHPF a crucial event for both national and international stakeholders.

As noted by IEA in its recent report – “The Future of Heat Pumps in China” – heat pumps will play a vital role in the country’s 2060 net-zero emissions target, with its significant consumption of heat.

“Much progress has been made in the past twelve years, yet we are just warming up.”

Hengyi Zhao, General Secretary of CHPA

The U.S.-based OEM is working to expand the use of transcritical CO2 beyond smaller, more traditional applications with large packaged systems.
Sonia Saini

Collaboration among all stakeholders is critical for the successful adoption of large-capacity transcritical CO2 (R744) technologies in industrial refrigeration applications, according to John Collins, Director of Industrial Sales at U.S. OEM Zero Zone.

Traditionally, transcritical CO2 systems have been limited to smaller retail applications. However, over the last decade, the manufacturer has been working to expand the use of the technology into industrial projects with the development of large R744-based packaged systems.

“As the industry moves towards natural refrigeration, customers in the industrial market are demanding large-scale transcritical systems to meet their requirements,” he said. “Collaboration is critical to building cutting edge systems while meeting customer needs like sustainability, budget constraints and tight project schedule.”

To keep projects moving, all parties – from designers and end users to OEM and the installation team – must work together from concept inception through to implementation, he added.

“As the industry moves towards natural refrigeration, customers in the industrial market are demanding large-scale transcritical systems to meet their requirements.”

John Collins, Zero Zone

Collins delivered these remarks during his presentation alongside Scott Ercole, Vice President of Technical Sales at U.S. contractor CoolSys, in a Refrigeration Case Studies session at the ATMOsphere (ATMO) America Summit 2024. The conference took place June 10–11 in Washington, D.C., and was organized by ATMOsphere, publisher of NaturalRefrigerants.com.

During their presentation, Collins and Ercole shared details of one of their latest industrial CO2 installations at a 460TR (1.6MW) low-temperature food storage facility in Arkansa.

According to Collins, the project demonstrates how to apply transcritical CO2 refrigeration to large capacity industrial facilities, something that was once not considered practical.

Designing to extensive specifications

The new 824,000ft2 (76,552m2) facility includes 120,000ft2 (11,148m2) of racked freezer storage space, which is kept at −10°F (−23.3°C) and has a cooling demand of 400TR (1.4MW). The site also features a refrigerated docking area that requires an additional 60TR (211kW) in cooling capacity, explained Ercole during his presentation.

Due to the customer’s capacity requirements, as well as their 2050 net-zero emissions targets, insurance regulations and safety concerns, CO2 was deemed the most appropriate option for the facility’s refrigeration system.

In terms of system design, several environmental and logistical factors influenced the decision-making process, he added.

“The customer has extensive specifications and guidelines,” he said. “They did not want any equipment to go on the roof and the amount of space they had around the facility on the ground was not a lot. The customer also had a very tight schedule, with nine months from design to start up. All of these factors went into the upfront decision making process.”

Scott Ercole, CoolSys, at ATMO America Summit 2024.
Scott Ercole, CoolSys, at ATMO America Summit 2024.

Evaporator coil placement was also difficult due to the design of the fire sprinkler system – specified by insurance regulations – and the end user wanting to maximize the amount of rack storage

“It took a lot of coordination with the design team and customer to get that all laid out,” said Ercole. “We had to make sure that we could throw air 250 feet [76.2m] across with coil placements.”

Designing and building such a large-capacity packaged system was also a significant challenge, he explained.

The project team opted for two of Zero Zone’s Genesys CO2 transcritical systems. The two units were ground mounted and placed on either side of the building to be closely located to the freezer and refrigerated docking bay evaporator coils would be installed.

“Having these distributed systems located around the facility helped reduce fuel piping, wiring and refrigerant charge,” Ercole added.

“Having these distributed systems located around the facility helped reduce fuel piping, wiring and refrigerant charge.”

Scott Ercole, CoolSys

Improved performance and monitoring

To enable the efficient use of transcritical CO2 in the southern U.S. climate, an adiabatic gas cooler was installed. Variable-Speed fans and adaptive water control further enhance the efficiency of the gas cooler.

Other system features included multi-stage compression, “generously sized” suction accumulators and fan-speed controls, which help to reduce energy consumption across the system, Ercole said. A heat recovery system was added to one refrigeration rack to supply underfloor heating inside the facility.

Opting for large-capacity reciprocating compressors helped to reduce the overall size of the refrigeration system.

“We were given the ability to select the best components for the application,” said Collins. “We determined that Dorin compressors were the best fit and they helped us to get more capacity and smaller footprint.”

An integrated control system was installed to monitor equipment performance in real-time and to allow off-site engineers and technical staff to adjust parameters remotely, he added.

Globally, Zero Zone has installed hundreds of CO2 systems globally since it first started working with the technology in 2012. CoolSys, one of the country’s largest service and construction companies, has been installing CO2-based technologies since 2010. As of August 2023, at least 65% of the contractor’s installations used natural refrigerants.

According to Collins, the two companies have formed a good strong working relationship, allowing them to work effectively across system design and build.

Why It Matters: Curated News With Commentary
Source: practicalESG.com
12/07/2024

New Canadian Law Targets Greenwashing

Why It Matters: Canada recently passed Bill C-59, which includes substantial additions to the Competition Act aimed at regulating greenwashing. The bill requires environmental and climate change-related representations to be backed up by testing, or by substantiation in accordance with internationally recognized methodology. It also introduces a private right of action against a company that is alleged to have contravened the new greenwashing provisions. Under Canada’s new law, these claims must be substantiated and the burden is on companies to prove that their claims can be justified. Other countries also have greenwashing regulations but they are generally enforced by class action suits. The Canadian law may offer opportunities to legally challenge claims made about the environmental benefits of f-gases vs. natural refrigerants.

With less than 100g of propane, the unit provides up to 2.35kW of cooling capacity, with storage temperatures ranging from −20 to 70°C.
Sonia Saini

Laird Thermal Systems, a global manufacturer of thermal management solutions for the industrial, medical and telecommunications industries, has launched a plug-and-play propane (R290) chiller suitable for air freight applications.

The EFC2400 operates with either water or water/glycol coolants and offers a nominal cooling capacity of up to 2.35kW (0.67TR) at a fluid set point of 20°C (68°F) with a propane charge of less than 100g (3.5oz). The set storage temperature options range from −20 to 70°C (−4 to 158F°).

“The EFC product marks a milestone as our first standard product utilizing natural refrigerants,” Laird Thermal Systems said.

In addition to liquid cooling systems, Laird Thermal Systems manufactures temperature controllers, thermoelectric coolers and thermoelectric cooler assemblies. The company has more than 500 employees and operates manufacturing facilities and design centers in China, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Germany and the United States.

Specifications: According to the company, the EFC2400 offers application-specific configurations and maintains a fluid set point within 0.1°C (0.2°F) of the desired temperature.

  • The unit’s variable-speed compressor helps maintain a high COP during partial load operation and reduces system noise.
  • A semi-closed hydraulic system on the unit prevents evaporative loss and biological growth in the fluid.
  • The EFC2400 has “simplified” maintenance procedures and an alarm monitoring system, making it “ideal for cooling sensitive electronics.”
  • The unit comes in a plug-and-play, rolling container with dimensions of 497.5 x 529 x 742mm (19.6 x 20.8 x 29.2in).

Market applications: Applications for the EFC Chiller include transportation of analytical instrumentation, laser systems and semiconductors.

  • According to Laird Thermal Systems, the unit can operate anywhere with a universal input of 200–240V at 50/60Hz.

What it means for NatRefs: With its applicability to air freight, the unit continues to round out sustainable natural refrigerant options for shipping, with such choices already available for ground and marine transportation. With global f-gas regulations in various states of development, the unit provides a future-proof solution for air transport of temperature-sensitive items.

  • In April 2023, German transport refrigeration specialists ECOOLTEC began the European roll out of its propylene (R1270) electric refrigeration unit for trucks.
  • On the propane front, Austria-based pbx offers the ecos M24 refrigeration unit for electric light commercial vehicles.
  • Global Carrier Transicold offers its NaturalLINE refrigerated container using CO2 (R744) refrigerant for marine transport.
  • “As the EU moves to ban fluorinated refrigerants by 2027 under the F-gas Regulation, our product [EFC2400] aligns with this environmentally conscious shift,” Laird Thermal Systems said. “The unit is compliant with the foreseeable future of global refrigerant regulations.”

Quotable: “Compared to traditional hydrofluorocarbon chiller systems, the EFC Chiller delivers similar performance specifications with a near-zero global warming potential at a very economical price,” said Greg Ducharme, Product Director at Laird Thermal Systems.

“The EFC product marks a milestone as our first standard product utilizing natural refrigerants.”

Laird Thermal Systems

PAN Europe links TFA in drinking water to pesticides and f-gases, after a similar study of surface/groundwater, raising safety questions.
Sonia Saini

Following a similar analysis of surface water and groundwater, a new study from the European Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Europe has found trifluoroacetic acid (TFA), an atmospheric degradation product of HFO-1234yf and other f-gases, in 34 of 36 European tap-water samples from 11 EU countries and in 12 of 19 bottled mineral and spring waters.

The study raises questions about the safety of drinking water as TFA and other PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) continue to proliferate in the environment.

“The good news for now is that, in almost all samples, the TFA levels we found appear to be still within what is considered safe limits according to current knowledge,” said Helmut Burtscher-Schaden, an environmental chemist with GLOBAL 2000, which contributed to the PAN Europe study. “However, TFA inputs are increasing daily, and the safety buffer is already very small. Moreover, we are already unduly burdened by other PFAS. Measures to prevent further TFA contamination must therefore be taken immediately.”

A report based on the study, “TFA: The Forever Chemical in the Water We Drink,” was published on July 10 by PAN Europe, a Brussels-based NGO, and its partner organizations in 11 countries: Austria (Global 2000), Belgium (Nature & Progrès), Bulgaria (Via Pontica Foundation), Croatia (Earth Trek), France (Générations Futures), Germany (BUND and PAN Germany), Magyar Természetvédők Szövetsége (Hungary), Luxembourg (Mouvement Écologique), Netherlands (PAN Netherlands), Spain (Ecologistas en Acción) and Sweden (Swedish Society for Nature Preservation).

The organizations collected drinking water samples in their respective countries between April and June 2024, and the samples were analyzed by the Water Technology Centre in Karlsruhe, Germany.

The report called for an immediate ban on PFAS pesticides and f-gases – the two primary sources of TFA. It also asked for swift implementation by the European Chemical Agency (ECHA) of the general PFAS restriction under the EU’s REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) regulation, establishment of a safe drinking water limit for TFA at the EU level and setting quality standards for TFA for water regulated under the EU’s Water Framework Directive. In addition, the report urged that wherever it is necessary to purify water due to chemical contamination, “the polluter pays principle shall be applied.”

GLOBAL 2000 demands that the Austrian government investigate the potential health risks of TFA and monitor TFA in nature, water and food.

In the EU, TFA is considered an ultrashort-chain (two carbon) PFAS under the scientifically endorsed OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) definition. PFAS, known as “forever chemicals” for their durability in nature, encompass a broad class of more than 14,000 fluorinated chemicals used in numerous consumer products; some longer-chain PFAS, such as PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid), have been deemed toxic to human health.

Highest level in Austria

The TFA detected in the 34 tap-water samples ranged from “below the detection limit” (0.02mcg/L) to 4.1 mcg/L, with an average of 0.74mcg/L. The highest tap-water level was found in the Austrian state of Upper Austria. In the 12 bottled mineral/spring water samples (derived from 17 mineral and two spring water sources) in which TFA was found, concentrations were seen from below the detection limit to 3.2mcg/L, with an average of .278mcg/L. The report did not identify the producers of the bottled water, pending further tests during the summer.

Notably, the Netherlands has set a TFA drinking water limit of 2.2mcg/L (exceeded by only two of the 55 water samples tested), while the EU has proposed a Drinking Water Directive limit of 0.5mcg/L for total PFAS that will take effect in 2026.

“This PAN report is yet another indicating that more of us are drinking increasing amounts of TFA every day via drinking water, regardless of where our drinking water comes from,” said Hans Peter Arp, Environmental Chemist at the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute. “The TFA emitted to the environment now will persist for countless generations and will spread to our most pristine freshwater ecosystems and mineral water resources. This impact is irreversible as TFA is too widespread, and the costs of removing it too unfeasible.”

Tests for 24 other PFAS chemicals in the PAN Europe study revealed that TFA accounted for more than 98% of the total PFAS load across all drinking-water samples tested. The study links the TFA to the breakdown of pesticides in farming areas and the decomposition of f-gases. Certain f-gases that are emitted from HVAC&R systems into the atmosphere undergo photolytic conversion to TFA (100% conversion for HFO-1234yf over two weeks) and then enter the water cycle through rainfall all over the world.

“To safeguard these impacts from future generations, it is important to put more urgency on creating pathways to limit the major sources of TFA, such as f-gases and pesticides like flufenacet, diflufenican and fluazinam,” said Arp.

“If nothing is done here, I believe that this issue will soon overtake climate change,” says Philipp Baumgartner, Managing Director for Austrian refrigeration contractor Equans Kältetechnik in a LinkedIn post. With respect to refrigerants, he points out that there are “tried and tested” alternatives to f-gases, namely natural refrigerants CO2 (R744), ammonia (R717) and hydrocarbons.

The European Fluorocarbons Technical Committee (EFCTC), which represents chemical manufacturers, did not respond to a request for comment on the new PAN Europe study. On its website, f-gas producer Chemours said the proposed regulations in Europe to restrict f-gases and other PFAS substances under REACH “would have a devastating impact on jobs, supply chains, the economy, and the ability to achieve EU climate, strategic autonomy, and innovation objectives. Chemours supports and advocates for a coherent regulatory approach that allows for the use of safer, better performing chemistries in the EU.”

In May, PAN Europe released a study that found TFA in samples from 23 rivers and lakes (surface water) and six aquifers (groundwater) across Europe. The peak values in the new drinking water study are comparable to those found in the study of surface water, though the average of 0.74mcg/L in the former is lower than the average of 1.22mcg /L in the latter.

The May report pointed out that the amount of TFA in the environment has experienced a steady increase “that has been going largely unnoticed by the public for decades, but which has been predicted or described by scientific experts since the 1990s and has already materialized.” For example, in Germany, the measured TFA levels in rainwater have increased fourfold in two decades, according to a 2020 study.

The May report also said that TFA cannot be removed from water by filters (such as activated carbon) or ozonation; it can only be removed by reverse osmosis, an expensive technology that “requires more resources, leads to higher energy costs, and raises the unresolved issue of disposing of the resulting concentrates.”

Another NGO, BUND (German Federation for the Environment and Nature Conservation), recently published a study of drinking (tap) water and mineral water in German cities and Brussels, Belgium, finding several chemical pollutants, with TFA’s being the most frequently discovered chemical.

In the U.S., a panel of scientists recently discussed health concerns associated with TFA at the ATMOsphere America 2024 conference, organized by ATMOsphere, publisher of NaturalRefrigerants.com.

Risk assessments vary

The PAN Europe report noted that there are few studies on the environmental and health risks of TFA, despite its widespread presence in waters across the globe, adding, “risk assessments vary significantly due to differences in the way regulators deal with the scarce scientific knowledge,” and “underestimation of the risk cannot be excluded.”

The most noteworthy example of a health assessment of TFA comes from the German Federal Office for Chemicals (Bundesstelle für Chemikalien or BfC), which recently submitted to the European Chemical Agency (ECHA) a proposal linking reproductive toxicity to TFA and its inorganic salts. This is one of the first efforts by a country to associate exposure to small quantities of TFA (concentrations of at least 0.1% to 0.3%, well above those found in the PAN Europe study) with harmful human health effects.

For its proposal, BfC relied on TFA study summaries from ECHA’s non-confidential registration dossiers, including one on rats’ reproductive performance/offspring development and general systemic toxicity and another on embryo-fetal developmental toxicity in rabbits. In the latter study, eye malformations in litters occurred in all three dose groups of rabbits administered TFA, reminiscent of the similar malformations in rats and humans associated with exposure to PFOA uncovered by American attorney Robert Bilott.

The PAN Europe report cited several assessments of tolerable levels of TFA:

  • European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in 2016: 50mcg/kg body weight per day.
  • German Federal Environment Agency (UBA) in 2020: 12.5mcg/kg/day.
  • Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) in 2023: 0.32mcg/kg/day. RIVM assumes that TFA has a comparable toxicological profile to other, better-studied PFAS.

The PAN Europe report also observed that there is currently no legal EU limit for TFA in surface water, groundwater or drinking water, though in 2026 the EU’s standard limit value for total PFAS of 0.5mcg/L in drinking water will come into force. However, when this value was proposed by the EU Commission, “it was not considered that existing TFA loads would exceed this limit,” the report said, adding that half of the tap water samples analyzed surpass 0.5mcg/L.

“From a legal perspective, TFA has so far been and remains an ‘invisible’ chemical,” said Sara Johansson, Senior Policy Officer for Water Pollution Prevention at the European Environmental Bureau (EEB). “The lack of quality standards for groundwater or surface water and the absence of a TFA limit for drinking water have resulted in widespread chemical contamination to pass under the radar.”

However, with the update of water pollution standards regulated under the Water Framework Directive, this could change, added Johansson. “The European Institutions now have the opportunity to set the course for water protection – they owe this to their citizens. People have a right to healthy water.”

The chemical industry addressed the environmental deposition of TFA in an October 2021 study funded by the Global Forum for Advanced Climate Technologies (globalFACT), which represents f-gas producers Chemours, Honeywell, Arkema and Koura (and equipment manufacturer Daikin). The study concluded that “with the current knowledge of the effects of TFA on humans and ecosystems, the projected emissions through 2040 would not be detrimental.” But the study also acknowledged that “the major uncertainty in the knowledge of the TFA concentrations and their spatial distributions is due to uncertainties in the future projected emissions.”

This article was updated on July 12 to include comments from Chemours’ website.

“The TFA emitted to the environment now will persist for countless generations and will spread to our most pristine freshwater ecosystems and mineral water resources.”

Hans Peter Arp, Environmental Chemist at the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute

The new reach-in cooler/freezer cabinet uses a Copeland compressor and offers up to 80ft3 of product space.
Sonia Saini

U.S.-based OEM Leer ‒ a manufacturer of temperature-controlled solutions, including ice merchandisers, cabinets, trailers and custom-built walk-in units ‒ has launched a new line of weatherproof reach-in propane (R290) cooler/freezer cabinets.

According to Leer, the new S Series, with four models designed for commercial applications, offers “precise temperature control” with an R290 compressor produced by U.S. manufacturer Copeland. The cooler provides temperature ranges from 34 to 46°F (1.1 to 7.8°C) and the freezer from −4 to 0°F (−20 to −17.8°C). The S40 model offers approximately 38ft3 (1.1m3) of controlled temperature space, with the S85 offering 80ft3 (2.3m3).

The new series follows on the heels of Leer’s transition to manufacturing only R290 equipment. According to the company, it first introduced R290 equipment in its product offerings in 2020.

“We are committed to R290 as the refrigerant of the future due to its increased performance, eco-friendly properties and regulatory compliance,” the company says.

S Series specifications: “Rigorous testing under varying ambient temperatures and humidity [proves the cabinet’s] reliability,” said Geoffery Gould, Director of Brand Strategy at Leer, in a company video. “Even in extreme temperatures as high as 120°F [48.9°C], we verified there are no hot spots, ensuring products stay in optimal condition.”

  • The weatherproof construction includes a double-layered steel frame with foam insulation, humidity and corrosion-resistant primer and paint on the exterior, rain shields positioned above the doors and patented offset door seams, resulting in a water-tight seal.
  • The cabinet contains interior LED lights and four adjustable shelves, each capable of holding 100lbs (45.4kg).
  • Electronic controls enable automatic defrost.
  • According to Leer, the cabinet is U.S. Department of Energy compliant, U.S. UL and Canadian ULC certified and NSF food safety approved.

Market applications: “These units, engineered for diverse commercial applications, are perfect for restaurants, convenience stores and more, offering superior reliability and flexibility for indoor and outdoor cold storage needs,” Leer said.

Embracing NatRefs: Leed reports that it sees retailers and customers “increasingly requesting R290 units” due to the refrigerant’s efficient performance, eco-friendly properties and the need to meet federal and state regulatory compliance requirements.

  • Starting January 1, 2025, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires new stand-alone retail food refrigeration units to use a refrigerant with a GWP of less than 150. R290 has a GWP of 3.
  • According to the manufacturer, R290 also provides performance benefits over synthetic refrigerants, including a higher thermal conductivity, allowing Leer ice merchandisers to use only 85–149g of propane. In addition, R290 enables lower high-side compressor pressures, resulting in a projected longer compressor life and more consistent performance to keep products in premium condition.

Quotable: “We understand the challenges businesses face in maximizing their cold storage capacities,” said Ben Albregts, President of Leer. “Our new, fully weatherproof, outdoor refrigerated reach-in storage units address these needs by allowing businesses to leverage their unused outdoor real estate.”

“We are committed to R290 as the refrigerant of the future due to its increased performance, eco-friendly properties and regulatory compliance.”

Leer

The new premises in Zagreb could produce up to 2,500 hydrocarbon units per year to meet growing demand.
Sonia Saini

German OEM Secon has announced plans to address the increasing demand for hydrocarbon-based HVAC&R technologies with a new manufacturing facility in Zagreb, Croatia.

According to Joachim Schadt, Owner and Managing Director of Secon, the company aims to expand its production capacity by 2,000–2,500 units per year once the facility is fully operational. The additional six production lines will focus exclusively on hydrocarbons, he told NaturalRefrigerants.com in a recent interview, adding that it will take approximately two years to get the first two production lines operational.

The new 20,000m2 (215,278ft2) facility will be built on a 28,000m2 (301,389ft2)-plot of land, located 7km (4.3mi) from Secon’s existing production site, which is operated by Croatian manufacturer Frigo Plus, a partly owned subsidiary of the German company.

This project follows the recent 1,000m2 (10,764ft2)-expansion of the companies’ existing site earlier this year.

Frigo Plus has been Secon’s independent production partner for around ten years. Approximately two years ago, Secon became part-owner of the Croatian manufacturer to increase production capacity. According to Schadt, this strategic partnership has created new production opportunities.

In a previous interview with NaturalRefrigerants.com, Pavao Jerković, CTO of Frigo Plus, mentioned that around 70% of the units manufactured by the company are for Secon.

Earlier this year, Secon received the ATMO Approved Natural Refrigerants Label for the third time.

Innovative production and testing

Secon is also investing in advanced technology to enhance production efficiency and boost capacity, Schadt said. For example, the manufacturers are using an automatic cable confectioning machine to reduce the manual labor needed for sizing and cutting the electrical cables used in their systems.

The companies have also developed a standardized condenser platform, which consists of modular blocks that each contains two condenser coils, fans and compressors. Up to eight blocks can be combined before being shipped out to customers.

Secon and Frigo Plus have also invested heavily in testing to ensure the optimal performance of their units and components.

Meeting the demand for NatRefs

As the EU works to phase out the consumption of HFCs by 2050, mandated by the bloc’s recently revised F-gas Regulation, the demand for alternatives to fluorinated gases – such as natural refrigerants – is expected to rise.

Simultaneously, interest in heat pumps for residential, commercial and industrial applications is also on the rise, largely driven by decarbonization efforts and the region’s REPowerEU plan.

To meet this demand, several manufacturers, including Copeland, Aira, Vahterus and Fenagy, have announced projects to expand their production capacity for natural refrigerant-based heat pump technologies.

The U.S. roll out of commercial and industrial propane chillers depends on regulators, according to company President Justin Thomas.
Sonia Saini

Oregon-based G&D Chillers foresees its production shifting within the next five years to only manufacturing propane (R290) units, according to company President Justin Thomas.

Earlier this year, G&D Chillers launched its Elite R290 chiller, which it calls “a first in the U.S. market” for commercial and industrial applications

“There is no reason we could not completely turn our production over to propane,” Thomas told NaturalRefrigerants.com in an exclusive interview. “However, for that to happen in the next five years, U.S. regulators need to step up with nationwide regulations for installing outdoor propane units, which will eliminate the current case-by-case determination by local jurisdictions.”

According to Paul Johnson, Director of Technology and R&D at G&D Chillers, the refrigeration capacities of the Elite R290 line range from 0.5‒165TR (1.8‒580kW), with a propane charge from a few ounces to around 6lbs (2.7kg), with outlet temperatures from 28 to 65°F (−2.2 to 18.3°C).

Nationwide U.S. safety standards for large-scale closed-circuit hydrocarbon refrigeration systems are currently in development, with an expected 2025 completion date, according to Tony Lundell, Senior Director of Standards and Safety at the U.S.-based International Institute of All-Natural Refrigeration (IIAR). When approved, the new standard will allow hydrocarbon charges up to 1,100lbs per site for industrial and commercial occupancies.

Lundell shared this information in a policy presentation at the ATMOsphere (ATMO) America Summit 2024. The event, organized by ATMOsphere, was held June 10‒11 in Washington, D.C. ATMOsphere is the publisher of NaturalRefrigerants.com.

During the interview with NaturalRefrigerants.com, Thomas ‒ joined by COO Scott Timms ‒ outlined the development of the Elite R290 chiller, its U.S. reception, potential applications for it and the training G&D provides to end users to ensure safety.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Why did you invest in an R290 chiller, and how did you develop it?

Justin Thomas: The internal discussion to develop an R290 chiller started five years ago. We saw [HFO blend] alternative refrigerants as short-term bridges to meet the developing regulations. With the writing on the wall, we thought why not just go straight to a final solution? As a natural refrigerant with an almost zero GWP, R290 offers greater efficiencies than some of the [synthetic] refrigerants hitting the market.

Scott Timms: Another reason we wanted to develop it comes from Europe seeing issues with HFO blends and PFAS [per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances] with the forever chemicals showing up in streams. Since not everyone can have a propane chiller in the U.S., we manufacture A2L options, but we plan for that to be short-lived. We want to move past HFO blends straight to natural refrigerants that do not have such side effects.

JT: We decided to push forward with a propane unit over other natural refrigerant options because of manufacturing costs. Unlike CO2 [R744], we use the same technologies and components on the market as synthetics, making the installation and serviceability of an R290 chiller much more cost effective. The first few units we roll out will cost slightly more, but there will not be much difference between them and HFO units in the future.

For the design, we leaned on our partner Frascold, an Italian compressor manufacturer, and its years of experience with R290. However, we did lots of internal engineering for our final product.

We were excited to partner with New Belgium to develop, build and install our first R290 chiller in the U.S.

What reception has the chiller received in the U.S., especially with current regulations limiting propane charges?

ST: Since showcasing it at the Craft Brewers Conference [held in Las Vegas April 21‒24] we have had lots of interest in the R290 unit. With the operating envelope of R290 broader than most medium-temperature refrigerants on the market, we see applications in process chilling, including in breweries, wineries, dairies and even the biogas industry.

People talk about the 300g [10.6oz] propane charge limit applicable to indoor installations. Without a great UL or ASHRAE standard for outdoor installations, we find ourselves in a hand-holding situation helping individual customers talk to their local municipalities.

As part of the case-by-case approval process, we rely heavily on decades of European experience, which show that the technology is safe and proven. Getting the approval for the New Belgium Brewery was a straightforward process.

JT: We already have another R290 chiller, similar in size to our first one, under construction, with other customers in different industries talking to us about going down the same case-by-case approval road.

What training does the refrigeration workforce need to safely work with R290?

JT: The attractiveness of R290 centers around its similarities to synthetics, making the refrigeration cycle familiar to the current workforce. However, they need safety protocols to deal with the flammability, especially to detect and mitigate leaks. With no regulations in the U.S., we work with our established network of partner technicians at each installation to provide on-site and in-house training, giving protocols to evacuate a system and check for leaks.

What else would you like the U.S. refrigeration industry to know?

ST: As a small company in a large U.S. refrigeration market, we want to lead and drive this space in the right direction for the planet and its occupants.

JT: We are nimbler than larger companies who can’t or won’t move into the natural refrigeration space for whatever reason, be it corporate stagnation or political negotiations within the industry. Chemical companies and big corporate entities are pushing back for reasons other than doing what is best for refrigeration moving forward. I’m excited to push the technology envelope and provide a natural refrigeration product with better efficiencies than HFO solutions.

In a company video called “The Future of Chill,” G&D Chillers outlines the benefits and addresses the concerns of R290 refrigerant, noting that propane is a tomorrow-proof refrigerant.

“I’m excited to push the technology envelope and provide a natural refrigeration product with better efficiencies than HFO solutions.”

Justin Thomas, President G&D Chillers

With this transaction Panasonic aims to strengthen its condensing unit business in the European market.
Sonia Saini

Japanese OEM Panasonic on July 9 announced that its Cold Chain Solutions Company has entered into an agreement with Cooling Solutions to purchase all the shares of Cooling Solutions’ subsidiary Area Cooling Solutions, a Polish CO2 (R744) condensing unit manufacturer with additional offices in Spain.

The agreement will be formally entered into after its general terms and conditions, including the approval of the relevant authorities, have been fulfilled, Panasonic said. The acquisition does not include the distribution business of compressors and other HVAC&R components that Area Cooling is currently operating.

This transaction is “a strategic step for Panasonic to strengthen its condensing unit business in the European market and to accelerate its ongoing global expansion,” Panasonic said in the announcement, adding, “Panasonic, which has established itself as the leading manufacturer of CO2 condensing units in the Japanese market, sees Europe as its most important market for the future.”

Panasonic has installed more than 16,000 outdoor condensing units (OCUs) for medium- and low-temperature applications in Japan as of September 2023, according to ATMOsphere research. Most of the installations are in convenience stores, especially the Lawson chain.

The market for CO2 condensing units in Europe has been growing. In December 2023, there were 8,500 stores in Europe using CO2 condensing units, compared to 60,000 using centralized CO2 racks, according to ATMOsphere research.

In February, Panasonic Europe announced the launch of a new 20HP CO2 outdoor condensing unit to the European market with applications for supermarkets and industrial process cooling. The 20HP unit extends the company’s existing range of 2HP, 4HP and 10HP CO2 outdoor systems and offers support for food retail and process cooling applications, including chilled and low-temperature display cases, walk-in cold rooms, freezers and blast chillers.

In 2015, Panasonic acquired U.S. OEM Hussmann.

Founded in 1995, Area Cooling has invested in inverter-controlled condensing units and CO2 condensing units. Its products have technological affinities with Panasonic’s condensing units as they have long used Panasonic-designed compressors.

Last year, Area Cooling announced plans to double the capacity of its iCOOL CO2 condensing units to offer up to 58.6kW (16.7TR) for medium-temperature (MT) applications at an evaporation temperature of −10°C (14°F) and in an ambient temperature of 32.2°C (90°F).

Panasonic, which has established itself as the leading manufacturer of CO2 condensing units in the Japanese market, sees Europe as its most important market for the future.”

Panasonic

With screw-on flange attachments, the valve prevents leaks caused by accidental gasket damage from proximity welding.
Sonia Saini

Alberto Bottura, Co-Owner and Managing Director of Italian refrigeration component manufacturer OLAB, detailed the uniqueness and advantages of the company’s weld-free CO2 (R744) ball valve, the Series Revolution, in a recent interview with ATMOsphere CEO and Founder Marc Chasserot. ATMOsphere is the publisher of NaturalRefrigerants.com.

Traditionally, refrigeration valves are attached to piping via welding. However, the proximity of the welding to the ball valve can accidentally burn or weaken the gasket inside the valve during system assembly, Bottura told Chasserot. A weakened gasket can result in refrigerant leaks, especially at the high operating pressures of CO2 systems.

“Our clients don’t have issues with leaky valves because instead of welding the valve directly to the tubing, we provide a flange to weld to the piping with the valve safely on the table,” Bottura said. Stainless-steel screws and washers attach the valve to the welded flange.

“We 100% guarantee that every gasket inside our valve is in perfect condition after installation,” he said. Bottura added that the assembly improves valve serviceability and end-of-life changeout without cutting the tubing and rewelding in a new valve.

OLAB’s Series Revolution ball valve ‒ rated for 150bar (2,176psi), with a safety factor of three (450bar/6,527psi) ‒ now accommodates piping up to 65mm (2.6in) in diameter, according to Bottura.

When it was launched in April 2023, the valve accommodated up to 60.3mm (2.4in)-diameter piping, with 10mm (0.4in)’s being the smallest size available. The valve operates in temperatures ranging from −50 to 150°C (−58 to 302°F).

Bottura indicated that OLAB’s weld-free CO2 ball valve costs roughly the same as traditional ones on the market. “With production technology, I can produce a quality product for around the same price,” he said

OLAB’s Series Revolution stainless-steel flanged ball valve, designed to eliminate leaks in transcritical CO2 systems, was one of three products nominated for the ATMO 2023 Innovation of the Year Award for North America.

Test, test, test

At its 30,000m2 (323,000ft2) manufacturing facility in Brescia, Italy, OLAB ‒ a multigenerational family-run business ‒ produces millions of components for various industries annually.

“The vision of total integration and complete supervision of the production process has led us to invest heavily in highly technological machinery designed around our needs,” the company says on its website.

According to Bottura, producing high-quality components starts with a detail-oriented philosophy, including strategic partnerships with material suppliers to obtain the highest-quality grade of raw materials.

“Once we have certified materials, we test and guarantee every product as it passes through production, including checking every dimension step by step,” he said. Individual tests confirm each final component is a “perfect” product.

After a tour of the facility, Chasserot called the amount of testing “mindblowing.”

“As a customer, you will not get a faulty product because of the repeated testing,” Chasserot said.

Bottura noted that four years ago, OLAB decided to invest in manufacturing components for CO2 and propane (R290) systems. “We have the technology to develop solutions for the industry,” he said, with the company currently developing new products in partnership with OEMs.

In addition to the Series Revolution ball valve, the company produces other components compatible with CO2 and propane systems, including solenoid valves rated to 150bar, check valves to 120bar (1,740psi), manifolds at 60/150bar (870psi) and stainless-steel pipe fittings at 150bar.

“We 100% guarantee that every gasket inside our valve is in perfect condition after installation.”

Alberto Bottura, Co-Owner and Managing Director of OLAB

Popular Products

Castel

Calibration Technologies Inc.

Refrigera

Arneg

Biaggini Frigoriferi

NDL Industries

Advansor

Go to top