Inderpal Saund, Beijer Ref, at ATMO APAC Summit 2024 talking about CO2 training
Inderpal Saund, Beijer Ref, at ATMO APAC Summit 2024

ATMO APAC: Training is Key for Accelerated Adoption of CO2 in ‘Complex’ Asia-Pacific Market, Says Beijer Ref

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The evolution of CO2 in Oceania

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

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

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

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

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

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

The evolution of CO2 in Asia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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