Carlos Obella presenting at ATMOsphere LATAM 2023.
Carlos Obella presenting at ATMOsphere LATAM 2023.

ATMO LATAM: Natural Refrigerants Trending in Latin America, Says Copeland

International environmental agreements and the influence of European retail chains are driving forces.

Adopting natural refrigerants is the trend in Latin America thanks to the region’s response to international environmental agreements and the influence of European retail chains, said Carlos Obella, Vice President of Engineering Services and Product Management for Copeland Latin America.

Copeland, a U.S.-based compressor, component and controls manufacturer, operates distribution centers and technical facilities in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Columbia and Mexico.

Obella discussed refrigeration trends in Latin America for food retail and cold storage operations in a presentation at the ATMOsphere (ATMO) Latin America (LATAM) Summit 2023. The event was held in November in Mexico City and was hosted by ATMOsphere, publisher of R744.com.

“Even though there are no mandatory regulations like in Europe or the U.S., the governments in Latin America are seeking to align with the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, [and are] looking for solutions with less environmental impact,” said Obella.

“Copeland has vast experience in the region,” added Marc Chasserot, Atmosphere’s Founder and CEO. “It’s good to get the market perspective from a leading global supplier.”

Obella said the presence of European food chains that use natural refrigerants and follow European standards has also made an impact.

“The alliance of local manufacturers with European ones provides for a wider acceptance of CO2 [R744], ammonia [R717] and propane [R290] refrigerants,” said Obella. The Copeland VP noted that in the past, such refrigerants were rejected for fear of high pressures or other safety issues. “Today, that is not the case,” he said.

Obella explained that another trend in the region includes moving to a smaller retail format, creating the need for refrigerated storage in strategically placed distribution centers.

“This boosts the application of ammonia and transcritical CO2 systems, including using CO2 boosters,” said Obella.

Obella also provided natural refrigerant equipment trends for the region based on facility format:

  • For large supermarkets or industrial facilities with more than 2,500m2 (26,900ft2), the trend involves centralized CO2 booster systems.
  • For supermarkets and convenience stores ranging from 600‒2,500m2 (6,458‒26,900ft2), a mix of R290/CO2 booster cascade systems, decentralized CO2 and R290 micro-distributed or self-contained units.
  • For express shops ranging from 120‒600m2 (1,291‒6,458ft2), self-contained R290 units.
  • For restaurants, hotels or cold rooms with less than 600m2, compact R290 units.

Regional issues

Although Obella said Latin America has “great people and great engineers,” he noted that the region lacks government regulatory direction and company-directed sustainability commitments.

“There is no alignment in flammable refrigerant regulations, but Latin America uses a combination of international, European and U.S. regulations,” he explained. “Having a local standard would boost manufacturing competition.”

According to statistics provided by Obella, the lack of cohesive government environmental mandates means only about two-thirds of Latin American companies have emission reduction plans. The number of businesses monitoring emissions and allocating funds and personnel to meet sustainability objectives amounts to about 50%.

“Generally, only big companies have environmental, social and governance [ESG] policies,” said Obella. “If we extend that to local and subsidiary companies, we can massively boost the application of natural refrigerants.”

Another challenge facing the region is the shortage of natural refrigerant subject matter experts. To address that, Copeland operates natural refrigerant learning centers in Mexico and Brazil.

“We need effective training with the creation of training centers and the certification of professionals in best practices,” he said.

Copeland became a standalone company in June 2023 after its parent company, Emerson, sold its majority stake in Climate Technologies to New York-based private equity firm Blackstone. “Emerson Climate Technologies” became “Copeland” after the deal closed.

“Being an independent company allows us to invest in developing more natural refrigerant solutions for our customers,” said Obella.

Copeland has a 100-year manufacturing history and offers R290 and CO2 compressors with variable or fixed-speed options for commercial refrigeration applications as well as ammonia and CO2-based solutions for industrial food storage or processing.

“The alliance of local manufacturers with European ones provides for a wider acceptance of CO2 [R744], ammonia [R717] and propane [R290] refrigerants.”

Carlos Obella, Vice President of Engineering Services and Product Management for Copeland Latin America

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