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A Woolworths grocery store in Australia
A Woolworths supermarket in Sydney. Photo via Daria Nipot for Shutterstock.

Woolworths Opens 100th Transcritical CO2 Supermarket in Australia

The achievement comes seven years after Woolworths’ first transcritical CO2 store and as the chain celebrates its 100th birthday.

Australian retailer Woolworths has opened its 100th transcritical CO(R744) supermarket, marking a “significant milestone,” according to Rob McCartney, Managing Director of Woolworths 360, the division of the company tasked with meeting its sustainability goals.

The newly refurbished supermarket in Wollongong, New South Wales, opened on March 27 and is one of the Woolworths Group’s 1,095 stores in Australia. The company also operates 191 stores in New Zealand, of which 32 are equipped with transcritical CO2 refrigeration systems, according to McCartney.

This achievement comes just seven years after Woolworths opened its first transcritical CO2 store and as it celebrates its 100th birthday.

“The Wollongong store relaunch marks a significant milestone in our natural refrigerants journey,” McCartney told NaturalRefrigerants.com. “Our very first store to feature CO2 as a refrigerant in a cascade R134a configuration was launched at Bankstown in 2006. It is almost poetic that we are currently in the process of replacing that very same plant with twin transcritical CO2 systems. I am very proud of the team who fashioned that art of possibility into a pillar of our sustainable strategy.”

This latest installation brings the brand’s total installed CO2-based HVAC&R capacity to an estimated 36MW (10,236.4TR), Dario Ferlin, Woolworths’ National Sustainable Engineering Manager, told NaturalRefrigerants.com.

“The Wollongong store relaunch marks a significant milestone in our natural refrigerants journey.”

Rob McCartney, Woolworths

Transitioning to transcritical CO2

Woolworths first began using CO2 as a refrigerant in 2006 as part of an R134a-based cascade system at the Bankstown location. Up until that point, the retailer had typically used R404A.

In 2008, Woolworths transitioned to a “more robust and lower cost” approach with the installation of a direct expansion cascade R134a-CO2 system at the chain’s Harbour Town store in Southern Australia, explained Ferlin.

“Around 390 stores were fitted out with this design concept with the engineering team making continuous design improvements along each step of the way,” he said. “An energy benchmarking exercise revealed a 40% reduction in energy intensity of cascade R134a-CO2 systems compared to earlier R404A systems.”

The retailer installed its first transcritical CO2 system at its Greenway Village location in New South Wales in 2017. The “resounding success” of this project set a new precedent for Woolworths, which started to build an ecosystem of local partners specializing in the technology, he added.

The following year, Woolworths launched its first hydronically integrated HVAC&R system using transcritical CO2. The company has also recently installed its first fully integrated transcritical CO2 system with direct expansion space cooling at its store in Parramatta, New South Wales. In a 2023 article, R744.com reported that 42 of the 79 Woolworths stores equipped with transcritical CO2 leveraged the system’s waste heat for space heating, with 17 of those 42 stores also capable of providing space cooling in a fully integrated setup.

In addition to adopting transcritical CO2 technologies, the company has also improved the efficiency of its HVAC&R systems with advanced controls and monitoring.

According to its 2023 Annual Report, Woolworths spent more than AU$30 million (US$19.5 million/€18.1 million) in its 2023 financial year on energy initiatives covering refrigeration and lighting upgrades as well as improvements to its energy monitoring and control systems.

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