David Moon was appointed President and CEO of Energy Recovery in January 2024. (Source: Energy Recovery)
David Moon was appointed President and CEO of Energy Recovery in January 2024. (Source: Energy Recovery)

The Executive Perspective: CO2 Is ‘Emerging as the Natural Refrigerant of Choice,’ Says Energy Recovery CEO

David Moon shared his bullish outlook on CO2 refrigeration with NaturalRefrigerants.com in an exclusive interview.

With the recent appointment of two experienced executives from the refrigeration industry – David Moon as President and CEO and Robert DelVentura as a special advisor – Energy Recovery, a U.S. manufacturer of pressure exchangers, is clearly signaling its interest in shaking up the CO2 (R744) refrigeration sector.

Following decades of producing pressure exchanger technology for the desalination industry, the company expanded into transcritical CO2 refrigeration around three years ago with its PX G1300 device, which is designed to significantly improve the efficiency of R744-based systems, particularly in high-ambient conditions.

The PX G1300 has won several industry awards over the past year, including Innovation of the Year at the ATMOsphere (ATMO) America Summit 2023 and Refrigeration Product of the Year at the 2024 ACR News Awards. ATMOsphere is the publisher of NaturalRefrigerants.com.

As legislation like the recently revised EU F-gas Regulation and the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act necessitate the adoption of low-GWP refrigerants, Energy Recovery is betting on CO2, which Moon said is emerging as the natural refrigerant of choice in many applications. While barriers to adoption remain, he is confident that the company and its products are well positioned to support the transition to CO2 refrigeration technologies.

NaturalRefrigerants.com recently spoke with Moon to learn more about current trends in CO2 refrigeration, the challenges currently facing the sector and how Energy Recovery is supporting efforts to overcome them.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What trends is Energy Recovery seeing in the natural refrigerants space at the moment?

David Moon: The adoption of natural refrigerants is picking up speed in North America, Asia Pacific and even Latin America, with Europe continuing to lead the way in the transition. We are even seeing natural refrigerants take center stage in industrial applications. This growth in the natural refrigerants sector is creating space for a lot of innovation.

There are now a wide range of commercially available, reliable and easy-to-install systems that serve a variety of use cases. Customers have options to choose from when designing their refrigeration system, and I think, with CO2 rising to the top, soon we will start to see standardization around a few optimal system designs.

As someone with extensive experience in the refrigeration sector, which of these trends are you most excited about?

D.M.: In many applications, CO2 is emerging as the natural refrigerant of choice. It is safer than alternatives and is therefore much more suitable for retail or food production. It’s also future proof against regulation with its low GWP. While HFOs may meet regulations today thanks to their lower GWPs than HFCs, they will likely be regulated in the coming years.

Another exciting trend is that OEMs and component manufacturers, including Energy Recovery, are making big strides in optimizing system performance across climates, creating more efficient and simpler systems and training our global technician base. The growing emphasis on simplicity is fantastic for end users. You can design the most powerful, most efficient system in the world, but if it’s not practical, that’s not going to work for the customer.

In many applications, CO2 is emerging as the natural refrigerant of choice.

David Moon, Energy Recovery

What are the main challenges facing the HVAC&R market, particularly relating to CO2 refrigeration systems?

D.M.: The “CO2 equator” has been a major barrier in the adoption of R744. We’re also seeing that because of climate change-induced heat waves, refrigeration systems are being pushed to their limits in regions that haven’t traditionally experienced high temperatures during the summer. Now that technologies exist that can solve for hot-weather efficiency, like our PX G1300 pressure exchanger, a major challenge for the industry will be its ability to fulfill the global demand for CO2 refrigeration systems.

There is also a growing interest in retrofitting first-generation CO2 systems to use the most cutting-edge energy efficiency technology and for standardized solutions that can easily be rolled out across businesses.

How does Energy Recovery support the market in overcoming these challenges?

D.M.: By capturing lost pressure in the system and recycling it, our PX G1300 pressure exchanger provides free compression to reduce compressor workload and energy consumption. Because the device is powered by pressure, it can drive even higher levels of system performance when the ambient temperature rises.

Our hope is that by improving energy efficiency, increasing capacity and reducing operating costs, our pressure exchanger can remove some of the barriers that are holding end users back from switching to CO2 refrigeration. Additionally, the PX G1300 has the added benefit of being able to integrate into existing CO2 systems, unlocking the ability for early adopters of CO2 to upgrade their systems with the latest technology.

In addition to collaborating with OEMs, we’re constantly innovating. We have an active R&D team that looks for and implements product improvements, are building out our training program and are educating commercial and industrial end users about our product.

Can you share insights into your strategic vision for Energy Recovery in the context of the growing demand for future-proof HVAC&R technologies?

D.M.: As pressure exchangers can reduce operating costs, we definitely see a role for the PX G1300 in speeding up the transition from HFCs to CO2, which will have a direct and hugely significant impact on an end user’s Scope 1 [direct] emissions. Similarly, incorporating our pressure exchanger into that system will significantly reduce Scope 2 [indirect – energy] emissions by cutting energy consumption.

What message would you like to convey to Energy Recovery’s customers, partners and the industry at large regarding the company’s commitment to sustainability and the use of natural refrigerants?

D.M.: We’ve led an industry toward more sustainable practices before, so we know that despite the growing pains, it can happen again, but this time in the HVAC&R sector. I’ve spent much of my HVAC&R career focused on driving innovations to improve efficiency as it’s a major priority for the industry from both an economic and environmental perspective. We’re here to help smooth the transition to CO2 refrigeration across all climates.

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