Ideamorphosis and InsightSCS are the recipients of the new R290 transport refrigeration units. (Source: CCI Hub)
Ideamorphosis and InsightSCS are the recipients of the R290 transport refrigeration units. (Source: CCI-Hub)

First 5 R290 Transport Refrigeration Units Hit the Road in the Philippines via the CCI-Hub

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

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.

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