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European Retailer Selects A2L as the Basis of Its Refrigerant Transition

RajanRajendran2 Rajan Rajendran | V.P., System Innovation Center and Sustainability

Emerson’s Commercial & Residential Solutions Business

As the transition from hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants with high global warming potential (GWP) continues in the U.S., commercial refrigeration stakeholders are actively pursuing emerging low-GWP alternatives. Among these include a variety of synthetic and natural options, from A1s with a familiar footprint to mildly flammable A2Ls to the naturals A3 (R-290) and CO2 — all of which can meet very-low GWP thresholds but have varying characteristics which dictate system design architectures. In our most recent E360 Webinar, a leading European retailer provided details about how they chose an A2L refrigerant as the basis for their organization’s refrigerant transition.

Although A2L safety standards have yet to be finalized in the U.S., the case study presented by Brian Churchyard, senior manager of engineering and energy of UK-based ASDA stores, provided a useful framework for how U.S. retailers could follow a similar path to regulatory compliance and sustainable refrigeration. He detailed ASDA’s journey toward lower-GWP refrigeration, which ultimately concluded in the selection of A2L refrigerant R-454A with a GWP of 238.

Creating a new refrigeration design standard

Churchyard explained how ASDA formed a collective working group comprised of numerous agencies, private businesses and industry experts to conduct a detailed assessment of A2Ls. The group developed a design standard for the safe application of their chosen refrigerant, which was based on existing data from the use of R-290 (even though A2L flammability levels were well below those of R-290).

After comparing the performance of A2L refrigerants to other alternatives through numerous trials, the ASDA team concluded that their new design standard achieved their objectives of lowering capital investment, energy consumption, lifecycle costs and carbon emissions. It’s important to note that while R-454A does not have the lowest GWP of the available A2L alternatives, it offered performance improvements that helped to meet these sustainability goals while adhering to the EU’s F-Gas regulatory requirements.

Moving to an A2L also required a reduction in refrigerant charge, which dictated that ASDA would also need to transition from large, centralized rack systems to smaller distributed remote systems. Churchyard said that other benefits of a decentralized approach included limiting the potential for leaks while eliminating risk by having a single point of failure.

Focus on safety and leak mitigation

Of course, safety is a primary concern when using a flammable or mildly flammable refrigerant, and minimizing leaks was an essential part of ASDA’s design strategy. Churchyard stressed that leak prevention was a top priority in all their refrigeration system trials — whether it was an A1 HFC, CO2, hydrofluoroolefin (HFO) or A3 refrigerant. Preventing leaks not only minimizes the potential for emissions, but also ensures that the system is operating at full capacity and efficiency.

Churchyard said that in the event of a leak, display cases are equipped with a modular alarm system integrated into the case controller. If leakage is detected within a case, the system will activate an alarm that effectively triggers a shut-off valve that stops refrigerant flow to a particular display case. In addition, leakage thresholds are set at such a low level as to prevent the potential for A2L ignition. Quality inherent among system joints, connections and proper installation was a major collective focus of the new design standard, which included remote distributed refrigeration plants and their associated display cases.

Churchyard said case upgrades were often the first part of their refrigerant transition strategy. When store operators identified existing HFC cases that needed to be replaced, the first step was to upgrade to cases that were compatible for A2L use — even though they were still using an A1. Then, when the distributed A2L refrigeration plants were installed, these stores could safely transition over to the use of the R-454A A2L refrigerant.

ASDA has been leveraging this strategy since 2019, when it was recognized as the first retailer to adopt an all-A2L refrigerant strategy. To learn more details about ASDA’s successful refrigerant transition, please view this webinar.

Help Reduce Energy Costs by Recovering Heat From Industrial Refrigeration Systems

Mike Nielsen | Global Application Team Leader, Vilter

Emerson’s Commercial and Residential Solution’s Business

Heat recovery from industrial refrigeration can be an effective way for facilities to help reduce power consumption and energy costs.

Depending on a system’s setup, the heat produced from a basic screw compressor refrigeration system can be used elsewhere. How it’s recovered and redirected depends on the industry and/or application. Among the most common heat recovery applications is to heat water for purposes unrelated to refrigeration such as wash-down and cleanup in a cold storage processing facility.

Not only can compressor heat recovery help to reduce the amount of energy used to heat water elsewhere in a facility, but it also can contribute to reduced water usage when a system doesn’t have to heat as much water. This is especially relevant in areas where water costs are higher. Every system and installation is different, so it’s important to evaluate whether the potential for reduced energy consumption and costs outweigh the investment in equipment to reuse compressor heat.

Integrating water systems

Under standard operation conditions, industrial refrigeration systems produce condenser heat, super-heated vapor heat, and oil heat. There are multiple ways to integrate these refrigeration systems with a typically separate water system to employ a heat recovery strategy, but some extra equipment may be needed.

The first step is to determine the facility’s hot water requirements and whether refrigeration compressor heat can be utilized in the hot water system. In both new and existing refrigeration systems, the equipment would have to be designed for this expansion.

For instance, some type of water system would be needed, as would a storage tank and a pump to bring in water. Then, the water would need to be pumped out to the heat source and returned to the hot water storage tank.

Consider full energy cost impact

Even though more heat can be generated by elevating the refrigeration system parameters, it’s important to consider how important energy recovery is to your overall operational goals.

Raising the condensing temperature can increase discharge water temperatures. As a result, more energy can go into the compressor, so it’s important to make sure the energy recovered for heating water is worthwhile. In some regions where electricity costs more than natural gas or propane, this approach may not be a good option. In other areas where electricity costs are relatively low and the cost for natural gas or propane is the same or higher than electricity, it might make sense to generate more heat with the compressor.

Many existing systems can be retrofitted to recover refrigeration compressor heat. This can be a bigger undertaking than a new system; re-piping, new equipment or a change in condenser type and heat exchangers can be required. But the investment may be worth the effort if a facility is experiencing high energy costs.

Enabling efficiency and energy savings

Recovering heat from refrigerator compressor systems to heat water for other processes can enable facilities to reduce overall energy costs. Highly efficient equipment such as Vilter™ single-screw compressors are designed to help provide lower lifecycle costs and high reliability. They also can enable facilities to reduce the energy consumed in the refrigeration system while lowering the energy needed to heat the water within those facilities.

To learn more about deploying a heat recovery strategy in your industrial refrigeration system, read our white paper.

 

 

 

Copeland™ Scroll Booster Architecture Balances Sustainability, Serviceability and Flexibility

Andre Patenaude | Director – Solutions Integration,

Emerson’s Commercial and Residential Solution’s Business

As refrigerant regulations continue to progress rapidly, commercial refrigeration stakeholders are looking for refrigeration solutions capable of balancing their sustainability, serviceability and equipment lifecycle goals. Emerson recently completed the development of a new distributed system architecture called Copeland scroll booster. It is designed specifically to help food retailers achieve these goals while providing the flexibility to accommodate a wide range of low- (LT) and medium-temperature (MT) applications.

When searching for viable and sustainable commercial refrigeration strategies, stakeholders often find themselves weighing the pros and cons of many different system types. Systems that use alternative refrigerants with a global warming potential (GWP) below 150 typically introduce increased service complexities and lifecycle costs. Other systems may not quite achieve sustainability targets but offer serviceability improvements. And when you consider the ever-expanding diversity of system designs needed to address modern commercial refrigeration requirements, system selection becomes even more complex.

Much of the work taking place at Emerson’s The Helix Innovation Center is focused on solving this industry-wide challenge, and the Copeland scroll booster architecture is a key outcome of these efforts.

Leveraging a new refrigerant alternative

Regulatory mandates are driving significant changes within commercial refrigeration system designs to minimize environmental impacts. Many operators are seeking alternatives to traditional centralized direct expansion (DX) refrigeration systems, which utilize large charges of high-GWP hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants and are prone to leaks. This has led to an increasing variety of distributed refrigeration approaches — which offer smaller refrigerant charges, lower-GWP refrigerants and wider application flexibility.

Although natural refrigerants CO2 (R-744) and propane (R-290) have the lowest possible GWP ratings, they also come with high operating pressure (R-744) and flammability (R-290), introducing operational complexities and design limitations that many food retailers may not be prepared to address. Newer refrigerant blends — such as the A1 hydrofluoroolefin (HFO) refrigerant R-513A — deliver excellent performance characteristics, much lower GWP than HFCs and zero flammability. Offering the lowest possible GWP (573) among non-flammable refrigerants, R-513A has low-pressure characteristics that provide a familiar operating envelope and require no special training, certification or safety mitigation measures.

Mechanics of Copeland scroll booster

The Copeland scroll booster system is designed to use R-513A for both LT and MT refrigeration loads. Its distributed architecture offers an efficient and environmentally friendly alternative to large centralized systems. System configurations can scale from small, low-charge condensing units to larger distributed racks charged with several hundred pounds of refrigerant.

This innovative technology overcomes the typical challenges of operating a low-temperature system, including requiring compressor cooling via liquid injection and lowering compressor lifespan due to high compression ratios and discharge temperatures. This straightforward architecture leverages the advantages of R-513A’s low-pressure, high-efficiency and key system components to significantly lower discharge temperatures and compression ratios.

This flexible architecture is comprised of one or more MT scroll compressors coupled with one or more LT scroll compressors, where MT compressors can either be placed in a condensing unit or within a typical rack configuration. Condensers may be located remotely or integrated into the system and placed indoors or outdoors. To help reduce refrigerant charge, piping and associated costs, the LT scroll compressors can be placed near the LT evaporators, i.e., directly on top of or beside the case or remotely near the load.

The “booster” design strategy provides significant performance improvements by discharging (or boosting) the LT compressor directly into the nearest MT compressor’s suction line. The lower discharge temperatures of the LT scroll compressor minimize the suction gas temperature of the MT unit and allow the MT compressors to operate within their design limits without the need for additional cooling. The net result is an overall system efficiency gain while greatly minimizing the mechanical loads on the LT compressors.

Simplifying operational complexities

The innovative use of a low-pressure, low-GWP refrigerant within a simple, distributed architecture that’s based on familiar operating principles fills an urgent need within the larger food retail market. The Copeland scroll booster system helps operators to meet their sustainability goals without introducing unnecessary serviceability complexities. Offering the design flexibility to service store formats of varying sizes, its benefits check many key boxes on the list of modern supermarket refrigeration priorities:

  • Lower-GWP, A1 refrigerant (i.e., R-513A)
  • Reduced refrigerant charge
  • Lower leak rates due to lower-pressure system
  • Lower utility costs
  • System familiarity with technicians and end users
  • Low total cost of ownership (TCO) from lower annual energy consumption and lifecycle climate performance (LCCP)
  • Secure remote facility monitoring capabilities

Proof of concept and future evolution

Emerson has conducted successful trials of this technology in various applications and climates. This year, a distributed scroll booster system was installed at Gem City Market, a new small-format supermarket built in Dayton, Ohio. The project involved collaboration among the surrounding Dayton community, city officials and commercial refrigeration industry leaders — including Hussmann and Chemours — who donated their respective expertise and resources to the project. In the future, when even lower-GWP refrigerants (such as A2Ls) are approved for use by applicable codes and standards, a distributed scroll booster system can be adapted for use with these ultra-low refrigerant alternatives (less than 150 GWP).

Trends That Will Shape the Post-Pandemic Future of Commercial Refrigeration

Dave Bersaglini | Vice President & General Manager, Refrigeration

Emerson’s Commercial & Residential Solutions Business

Last spring, the COVID-19 pandemic forced supermarkets and other food retailers to adapt their operations on the fly as consumer purchasing behaviors shifted virtually overnight. Commercial refrigeration contractors and manufacturers were also pressed into action to address unprecedented demands for refrigeration and cold storage. Even after life returns to normal, some of the trends that emerged are likely to stick. I recently participated in an executive roundtable for HVACR Business that explored several of the developments that may influence the industry for years to come.

Online retail is here to stay

At the onset of the pandemic, consumer adoption of click-and-collect and home delivery services spiked in response to lockdowns and health concerns. Research suggests consumers will maintain these purchasing habits, even after the pandemic wanes. Retailers are responding by rethinking and upgrading their refrigeration strategies and fulfillment processes to sustain higher volumes over the long term.

At the same time, retailers are exploring and implementing more sophisticated fulfillment models, such as in-store, micro-fulfillment centers (MFCs), dark store conversions and fully automated warehouses. These moves are a natural response to the growth in online grocery retail. But they are also enabling retailers to establish more control over their supply chains by reducing their reliance on third-party logistics providers and food storage warehouses.

Simplicity, certainty and data will become more important than ever

Profit margins and energy management goals increasingly hinge on refrigeration, HVAC and lighting system performance. Pandemic-related lockdowns and social distancing restrictions only underscored the need for remote monitoring of equipment and systems.

As a result, the collective ability to collect, access and analyze data in real time is emerging as a distinct strategic advantage for retailers. By leveraging internet of things (IoT) capabilities and other technologies, operators can optimize equipment performance, protect food safety and quality, improve energy management, and even reduce equipment total cost of ownership (TCO). Technological improvements and economies of scale across the board are making these tools more accessible and affordable, i.e., the race is on to get connected.

At Emerson, we will continue to improve our refrigeration and facility management controllers and supervisory platforms to simplify retail operations and provide superior strategic data insights. The newly launched Lumity™ E3 supervisory control greatly expands upon the widely adopted E2 — adding more power, robust control algorithms, faster speeds, remote connectivity, and an intuitive touch-screen display.

Cold chain monitoring technologies take center stage

All eyes continue to be on the development and distribution of vaccines to fight COVID-19. Vaccine storage requirements — particularly for the Pfizer vaccine, which initially had temperature holding requirements between -80 and -60 °C — presented logistical distribution and storage challenges. News coverage highlighted the role that temperature control technologies play in providing temperature security throughout the cold chain.

We’re proud that Emerson’s temperature control technologies are supporting a network of refrigerated trucks, planes, labs and storage facilities that operate behind the scenes to protect vaccines and the people who rely on them. These same technologies are essential to ensuring the safety and quality of food as it travels from farm to shelf or fork. Watch for more to come in this field as retailers and the public at large gain a wider appreciation for these technologies.

Transition to sustainable refrigerants will gain steam

The transition to refrigerants with lower global warming potential (GWP) and more environmentally friendly refrigeration systems will gain ground in 2021 and beyond. Retailers that shelved remodel and retrofit activities last year are picking up where they left off — especially in California, where proposals mandated by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) will take effect in 2022.

However, regional regulatory complexity in the U.S. will continue to challenge retailers, at least in the short term. Passage of the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act of 2020 (AIM Act) will likely simplify hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) phase-down initiatives. But until then, retailers will need to align their equipment and system choices with regional environmental regulations while trying to anticipate future requirements. Contractors will need to stay abreast of current and proposed regulations to help retailers devise refrigeration strategies that balance regulatory compliance with a wide range of operational priorities and business objectives.

Virtual training firmly established as a viable option for education

Since April 2020, we have offered a variety of free online training courses which will continue through June. Emerson Educational Services has conducted more than 250 instructor-led virtual training sessions for more than 15,000 attendees in the U.S. and Canada. Thousands more have completed self-paced virtual courses. In Latin America, more than 8,000 participants have participated in well over 100 virtual training sessions. We look forward to resuming our comprehensive in-person curriculum as restrictions are lifted, but will continue to build on our virtual and remote learning programs.

Looking to the future, we can state with certainty that our industry will continue to evolve at a rapid clip. At Emerson, we remain committed to building a deeper understanding of the challenges facing our industry. In doing so, we will leverage our commercial refrigeration expertise to create innovative tools and technologies that help our stakeholders to address an ever-expanding spectrum of operational needs.

 

The Helix: Bold Collaboration & Disruptive Innovation

RajanRajendran2 Rajan Rajendran | V.P., System Innovation Center and Sustainability

Emerson’s Commercial & Residential Solutions Business

When Emerson first opened The Helix Innovation Center, we envisioned it as a catalyst to advance research and drive innovation for the global heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVACR) industry.

In only a few short years, it has surpassed our best expectations, quickly becoming a place where industry experts can come together and work collaboratively to confront and solve some of the biggest challenges facing not just our industry, but our communities and the entire planet.

A perfect example of this is the work we’ve done at The Helix in regard to sustainable supermarket refrigeration. We recently introduced a new distributed scroll booster refrigeration architecture for retail operators that will help them meet their sustainability goals without introducing unnecessary serviceability complexities.

The Copeland™ scroll booster architecture helps reduce emissions from refrigeration systems by utilizing reduced charges of lower global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants and system design strategies that maximize energy efficiencies. It is designed for maximum application flexibility and optimized for use with a low-pressure refrigerant, R-513A.

This flexible architecture fills an urgent need within the food retail market, which is looking for commercially viable technology and equipment that not only delivers efficiency and simplicity, but also provides a positive impact on the environment. Until now, there has not been a single system architecture that addressed the wide range of sustainability objectives, as well as system cost and long-term serviceability considerations.

The combination of high performance, sustainability and serviceability made the distributed scroll booster an ideal choice for the Gem City Market, a new small-format supermarket that opened this April in a food desert in Dayton, Ohio.

The work being done at The Helix became a focal point for the project as Dayton community members, city officials and commercial refrigeration industry leaders came together to identify a solution that met the market’s configuration of the distributed scroll booster system that met the store’s unique footprint, floorplan and refrigeration requirements.

Special thanks to business partners Chemours and Hussmann, and my own company, Emerson, for donating expertise, resources and equipment for this important installation

This is a great example of why we built The Helix. There is no shortage of great ideas, innovative technology and dedicated commitment in the industry. Our innovation center provides an ideal place where are these elements can come together to achieve great things for our industry and our communities.

 

 

 

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