EU F-gas Law
Wedholms CO2 milk tank. Image credit: Wedholms.

EU F-gas Law Leads to Natural Refrigerant Solutions for Non-Traditional HVAC&R Industries

Wedholms, a Swedish producer of dairy equipment, offers CO2-based milk-cooling tanks to the European market.

The European Union F-gas Regulation, signed into law and enforceable since March 11, has led to the development and marketing of natural refrigeration equipment, including CO2 (R744)-based solutions for non-traditional HVAC&R industries.

Starting January 1, 2025, the law prohibits the sale of commercial refrigeration and freezer equipment with a GWP of 150 or more. Refrigerant limitations in new domestic refrigerators and chillers, air-conditioners and heat pumps will follow from 2026 to 2033. In addition, the law stipulates an HFC production phase-down, with HFC consumption to be phased out by 2050.

Besides food retail and processing, the new law affects refrigeration equipment used by dairies, hospitals, pharmaceuticals, chemical manufacturers, tech companies and more.

EU dairies

The European shift to use alternative refrigerants with lower GWPs started in 2014 with the first EU F-gas Regulation designed to achieve climate neutrality by reducing the emissions of fluorinated greenhouse gasses.

Led by the regulation, Swedish dairy equipment manufacturer Wedholms started marketing CO2 milk-cooling tanks in 2020 in Sweden, Finland and Norway. In 2021, Wedholms introduced the tank to the German market. According to the Industrial News Service (INS), the unit, now available throughout Europe, can keep dairies ahead of the outlined f-gas prohibitions.

“Refrigerants that are environmentally friendly are being introduced across the board, and milk cooling tanks are no exception,” said Stefan Gavelin, Managing Director of Wedholms. “We have chosen to work with CO2 refrigerant.”

According to the European Dairy Association, food safety measures taken by the dairy sector include “quickly” cooling milk to 6°C (42.8°F) and keeping it at that temperature. Milk enters a cooling tank at temperatures around 38°C (101°F).

Wedholms said it offers a “unique” evaporator solution in its CO2 tanks with up to six individually controlled cooling zones to preserve milk quality. The plug-in units ‒ requiring electricity, water and milking robot connections at the dairy ‒ offer tank capacities from 1,600 to 30,000l (423 to 7,925gal).

The manufacturer claims its CO2 unit, using frequency-controlled compressors, cuts energy use by up to 50% compared to traditional cooling systems, with heat recovery providing hot water above 70°C (158°F) for process cleaning. “The volume of hot water gained from the system covers twice that needed for cleaning the cooling tank,” Wedholms said.

“We have chosen to work with CO2 refrigerant.”

Stefan Gavelin, Managing Director of Wedholms

Global NatRefs dairy solutions

Natural refrigerant solutions for dairy operations are gaining traction around the globe.

In 2021, New Zealand-based Cold Energy Technology (CET) introduced its Eco2Dairy milk cooling system to the local market. The company claimed its patented technology cools milk down to 2°C (35.6°F) almost instantly, with heat recovery producing up to 80°C (176°F) hot water without additional energy input.

SelfChill, a Germany-based company founded in 2019, specializes in refrigeration equipment for applications in Africa. The company offers a solar-powered milk tank using isobutane (R600a) refrigerant, providing 6.8kW (1.9TR) of refrigeration capacity. “This device can cool up to 1200l [317gal] of milk per day without incurring additional fuel or electricity costs,” the company says.

In the U.S., Pro Refrigeration ‒ a Washington State-based manufacturer of chillers for the dairy, winery and craft brewery industries ‒ installed its first CO2 chiller in a Californian dairy in 2021, with heat recovery from the unit slashing the dairy’s water heating bills.

In a February panel discussion, Jim VanderGiessen, CEO and Co-Founder of Pro Refrigeration, remarked that the company has four CO2 chillers installed, with a fifth in the works.

The genesis for Pro Refrigeration to develop CO2 chillers came from a meeting with milking systems producer BouMatic as the two companies discussed the next “big generational [refrigerant] change” due to changing Californian laws, with a path to eliminate HFCs by 2035.

“I’m so proud to see what has happened with the [CO2 chiller],” said Steve Pretz, President of BouMatic. “That is the end game. It’s all going to be natural refrigerants in the future.”

“That is the end game. It’s all going to be natural refrigerants in the future.”

Steve Pretz, President of BouMatic

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