METRO’s recently refurbished wholesale store and warehouse in Zvolen, Slovakia. (Source: METRO)
METRO’s recently refurbished wholesale store and warehouse in Zvolen, Slovakia. (Source: METRO)

Over 50% of METRO Stores Now Exclusively Using Natural Refrigerants in Refrigeration Systems

The international food wholesaler is committed to phasing out HFCs and HCFCs by 2040 under its F-gas Exit Program.

International food wholesaler METRO has told NaturalRefrigerants.com that over 50% of its global stores and distribution centers now exclusively use natural refrigerants in their refrigeration systems.

According to Olaf Schulze, Director of Energy Management and Real Estate Sustainability at METRO Properties, METRO’s real estate division, 226 of the chain’s 658 wholesale stores and depots use transcritical CO2 (R744) refrigeration, 66 use subcritical CO2 technologies and several stores use propane (R290)-based plug-in units. Absorption-based refrigeration solutions, which use heat and an ammonia (R717)-based waterloop to drive the refrigeration process, are used in a few of its stores, he added.

Nine of the chain’s cold storage facilities – eight in Germany and one in Russia – operate on ammonia.

This milestone has been met as the company works to phase out the use of HFCs and HCFCs in all of its stores by 2030 under its F-gas Exit Program. While METRO has successfully transitioned away from f-gases in many of its stores’ refrigeration systems, HFCs are still used in some air-conditioning and heat pump technologies, Schulze noted.

With the exception of Turkey and Pakistan, natural refrigerants are now used in at least one facility in every country where METRO operates. The brand is currently present in 21 countries across the world, the majority of which are in Europe.

Later in 2024, Moldova will become the first country in METRO’s portfolio to operate exclusively on transcritical CO2 refrigeration, with all three of its facilities using the technology. France, Slovakia and Portugal will follow suit over the next two years, he explained.

METRO’s latest CO2 installations

The latest METRO facility to be converted to natural refrigerants is a 13,765m2 (148,165ft2) wholesale store and warehouse in Zvolen, Slovakia. The new transcritical CO2 refrigeration system from Carrier replaces the store’s previous R404A-based technology. The refurbishment was completed in April 2024.

In December 2023, Carrier sold its commercial refrigeration business to Haier. The acquisition was recently approved by the European Commission.

The MaxiCO2OL system provides 345kW (98TR) in capacity for all of the facility’s refrigeration equipment, including its cold storage rooms and loading docks, and 39kW (11TR) for its space cooling. Waste heat from the CO2 system is recovered and reused for hot water production.

Carrier’s MaxiCO2OL system serves all of the facility’s refrigeration equipment. (Source: METRO)
Carrier’s MaxiCO2OL system serves all of the facility’s refrigeration equipment. (Source: METRO)

“The [system] includes advanced modulating vapor ejector technology built in compact outdoor housing, an outdoor double-row gas cooler with robust casing and high-efficiency EC [electronically commutated] fans,” Marcel Sabo, Head of Technical Engineering at METRO Slovakia, told NaturalRefrigerants.com. “Indoor temperatures are controlled by efficient and large-capacity evaporators.”

“The Carrier MaxiCO2OL system helps us achieve average energy savings of up to 30% compared to traditional HFC products and ensure the greatest energy efficiency and reduced [greenhouse gas] emissions,” he added.

The facility’s refurbishment also included the installation of PV solar, electric vehicle charging stations and LED lighting.

“The Carrier MaxiCO2OL system helps us achieve average energy savings of up to 30% compared to traditional HFC products and ensure the greatest energy efficiency and reduced [greenhouse gas] emissions.”

Marcel Sabo, METRO Slovakia

The Zvolen store is one of METRO’s six wholesale facilities in Slovakia, four of which now operate with natural refrigerants. The company has begun upgrading its store in Zilina, and, in 2025, its Devinska Nova Ves location will also be converted to CO2.

In addition to Slovakia’s transcritical CO2 installations, METRO is continuing to roll out the technology across its stores in Austria, Serbia and Ukraine.

Four new stores are currently under construction in the Austrian towns of Liezen, Neusiedl, Spittal and Klagenfurt, all of which will have CO2-based refrigeration.

Following METRO Serbia’s first transcritical CO2 installation at the end of 2023, the company is working on its second CO2 project as part of an upgrade to one of its stores in Belgrade. The system is expected to be commissioned in August, Schulze explained.

METRO is also working on its second and third CO2 installations in Ukraine – one in Kyiv and the other in Lviv – which will be finished in the coming weeks, he added. METRO Ukraine’s first transcritical CO2 wholesale store opened in Kyiv in 2023. It is thought to be the first such installation in the country’s wholesale retail sector. The installation in Kyiv was delayed by one year due to the war with Russia.

Barriers to CO2 in Turkey

Schulze has attributed the delayed roll out of CO2 refrigeration in Turkey to a lack of trained technicians in the country.

“In Turkey, our local team did not find an installer who is able to install CO2 technology or offer solid maintenance and repair [M&R],” he explained. “We hope to find a M&R company who would be able to maintain the transcritical cooling equipment.”

This year, the company plans to refurbish two of its wholesale stores in Turkey, replacing their existing R404A refrigeration systems with R448A alternatives. The facilities’ deep cooling needs will be met with plug-in propane freezer units.

“With this method, we are not fully eliminating HFCs but strongly decreasing,” he added.

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