The Santander Arena is home to the Reading Royals ice hockey team. (Source: CIMCO)
The Santander Arena is home to the Reading Royals ice hockey team. (Source: CIMCO)

Transcritical CO2 Cuts Energy Use at Minor League Hockey Arena by 55% Compared to R22

The new refrigeration system at the Santander Arena – home to the Reading Royals – has also reduced water consumption by 55%.

The Santander Arena – an ice rink and multi-purpose venue in Reading, Pennsylvania – has seen its energy consumption reduced by 55% after replacing its R22-based refrigeration system with a transcritical CO2 (R744) system, according to a case study from CIMCO, the project’s contractor.

The new 668kW (190TR)-capacity system, which has been operational since August 2022, includes a gas cooler from German manufacturer Güntner and heat recovery technology. Recovered heat is used for underfloor heating and snow melt to further improve the efficiency of the system.

The packaged transcritical CO2 system’s enhanced energy efficiency, combined with the significantly reduced GWP of its refrigerant, will reduce the ice arena’s greenhouse gas emissions by a projected 60%.

The switch from an evaporative condenser to an adiabatic gas cooler has also cut the arena’s water consumption by 55%.

“The adiabatic gas cooler only requires water during peak conditions: approximately 10% of the year,” explained Jascha Heynck, Güntner’s Vice President of Sales. “The remainder of the year you’re able to operate dry.”

Due to the system’s high level of energy and water efficiency, and subsequent emissions reductions, the Santander Arena qualified for and received a local utility incentive payment of $81,000 (€74,597).

The 8,000-seat venue is home to the Reading Royals, an affiliate of the National Hockey League (NHL)’s Philadelphia Flyers and is managed by ASM Global.

Lower lifecycle costs

The arena has used its original R22 refrigeration system since it opened in 2001. However, due to decreasing performance and the global phase out of HCFCs under the Montreal Protocol, it became clear that the facility needed to upgrade its refrigeration system to a more sustainable option, explained CIMCO in its project case study.

In scoping out a replacement system, the arena’s management company specified that it must have high energy efficiency, low water consumption, low maintenance costs and a 30-year life cycle.

“CO2 proved to be the ideal choice, offering future-proof sustainability with its negligible GWP and alignment with the arena’s 30-year life cycle objective,” said CIMCO. “The system design and refrigerant properties require less water usage and maintenance. Combined with its proven energy efficiency and enhanced performance, CO2 emerged as the clear frontrunner for the arena’s upgrade.”

“Combined with its proven energy efficiency and enhanced performance, CO2 emerged as the clear frontrunner for the arena’s upgrade.”

CIMCO

While CO2-based refrigeration technologies were new to the Santander Arena’s team, ASM Global had worked with CIMCO previously on a R744 installation.

“From a usage standpoint, it’s good – it’s really good,” said David Farrak, Santander Arena’s General Manager. “At the end of the day the financials are our lifeblood. What we had before was just an energy guzzler.”

Due to significantly lower operating costs, CO2 offers a much lower lifecycle cost compared to f-gas alternatives like R513A, according to CIMCO’s assessment. Calculations showed that CO2 would result in a 19% energy reduction compared to R22, while R513A would have increased energy costs by 14.3%.

“Utilities are the largest cost in a facility,” Grant Ossman, Santander Arena’s Director of Operations, told NaturalRefrigerants.com. “Having to keep those down is definitely stressful, especially this past year with energy prices skyrocketing. Even though you’re saving money, you’re not compromising what your ice looks like.”

The project demonstrates a great example of how companies can have sustainability and savings without compromising building performance, said a CIMCO representative. This is particularly important as companies are evaluating their options on how to comply with the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act, which requires the phase down of HFCs over the coming decades.

The Santander Arena’s new transcritical CO2 system was installed in August 2022. (Source: CIMCO)
The Santander Arena’s new transcritical CO2 system was installed in August 2022. (Source: CIMCO)

CO2 in ice rinks

The use of R744-based refrigeration in ice arenas is increasing globally. Major sports venues have opted for the natural refrigerant, including the Ice Ribbon rink used for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and the Nationwide Arena in Ohio, which is home to the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets.

“Over the past year I’ve seen a massive shift as large ice venues around North America gain more confidence in the performance of CO2,” Brad Wilkins, U.S. Recreation Sales Manager at CIMCO, told NaturalRefrigerants.com. “This is driven by various factors such as the satisfactory performance of CO2 at the 2022 Winter Olympics, proving that [the technology] could work well in large venues too, paired with the increasing uncertainty around the future of fluorinated gases as the global refrigerant phase down continues.”

“Over the past year I’ve seen a massive shift as large ice venues around North America gain more confidence in the performance of CO2.

Brad Wilkins, CIMCO

The technology has also been adopted by facilities across Europe, including an outdoor ice skating rink in Auron, France, and several arenas in Sweden and Finland.

“CO2 is a widely adopted, proven refrigerant now,” added David Fauser, Director of Sales and Marketing at CIMCO. “It is no longer a new technology; it is becoming more mainstream. The technology is also constantly improving and the costs are coming down, making it an easy choice for customers.”

To date, CIMCO has executed more than 100 CO2 installations, with a significant focus on North American ice arenas. Around 40% of CIMCO’s sales pipeline now comprises CO2 installations, he said.

Other examples of using natural refrigerants in ice rink refrigeration systems can be found in the North American Guide to Natural Refrigerants in Ice Arenas, which was produced by ATMOsphere, publisher of NaturalRefrigerants.com.

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