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New Challenges Won’t Stop the Cold Chain Evolution

Dean Landeche_Blog Dean Landeche | Vice President of Marketing , Cold Chain
Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

 

This post summarizes opening remarks made by John Rhodes, Emerson’s group president, cold chain, at our latest E360 event, which was held in Chicago on October 5. To learn more, watch the full video.

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The refrigeration industry is facing the most significant regulatory changes in half a century, and they’re all starting to hit now. The first new Department of Energy (DOE) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations began coming into effect a little more than a year ago. Many more — about 90 percent of the total — are scheduled to be implemented in the next three years or so.

Even as the first targets have or soon will be taking effect, the EPA’s core rule was tentatively struck down in August. The U.S. Court of Appeals DC Circuit ruled that the EPA did not have the authority to phase down HFCs under its Clean Air Act, because HFCs are not an ozone-depleting substance.

This ruling suggests HFCs such as R-404A and R-507 might get a new lease on life, but I would caution that the ruling has not yet gone into effect and may not be upheld. Presently, several refrigerant manufacturers are appealing the ruling.

Meanwhile, the industry will continue to build on the significant progress we’ve made in the last several years. We’re in mid-stride on a lot of changes and can’t afford to stop and wait. The risks of falling behind are great, especially if this ruling is appealed. Even if it stands, the global phase-down of HFCs is underway, and may make a strong business case for the changes the industry has already set in motion.

During the past three and a half years, Emerson has worked to help you understand the changes you’re facing and achieve the best possible outcomes. These unprecedented environmental, energy and food safety regulations have created a labyrinth of challenges for our customers. Through our breadth of product offerings, stewardship efforts and focus on innovation, we’re committed to helping you successfully navigate today’s cold chain complexities.

Internally, we’ve expanded our own role in safeguarding the cold chain to confront these and other big challenges, including the amount of food wasted, revenues lost and energy consumed globally. From compressors, electronics and controls to monitoring solutions and cargo tracking, we provide holistic control of cold chain operations. Our cold chain solutions ensure food quality, food-life extension and waste reduction from farm to fork.

We anticipate more complexity will continue to be added to regulations, refrigerants and applications. At the same time, a technician shortage is one of the biggest challenges facing the industry. With that in mind, we think the time is right for more standardization. In the next quarter and beyond, we intend to work toward reducing that complexity, both for total systems and subsystems. We believe “plug and play” is an approach whose time has come in the refrigeration industry.

As the refrigeration landscape evolves, our E360 initiative will continue to serve as a platform where our customers, partners and the larger industry can turn — not only for timely, straightforward information, but for a measured evaluation and expert guidance. To register for upcoming webinars, retrieve information from past presentations, and otherwise stay informed, please keep these E360 resources close at hand:

How to Create a Machine-learning Model in Your Enterprise in Six Simple Steps

JohnWallace_Blog_Image John Wallace | Director of Innovation, Retail Solutions

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

This blog summarizes an article from our most recent E360 Outlook, entitled Applying Machine Learning for Facility Management.” Click here to read it in its entirety.

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Machine learning is a subfield of computer science that refers to a computer’s ability to learn without being programmed. Although machines should be able to learn and adapt through experience, human interaction is still needed to produce desired results. Today, many facility management applications — for refrigeration and HVAC systems, for example — have taken a supervised learning approach that utilizes historical data to train an algorithm and predict an outcome from a series of inputs.

To create your own supervised-learning model, businesses can take these relatively simple six steps:

  1. Define the problem. It’s critical to have a keen idea of the problem you are trying to predict or solve, and establish well-defined goals of the application.
  2. Develop a data collection strategy. Data collection is achieved via inputs from a variety of information, including: temperatures, pressures, on-off activities (from motors, etc.) as well as the actions that result from these inputs. Your goal will be to predict the action that will occur for a given set of inputs. Data will be used to both train the learning model and validate the model’s performance.
  3. Create machine-learning models. Based on the training data collected and available inputs, you can create a machine-learning model that uses specific algorithms (math) to predict an action. Since different types of models may perform better or worse for a particular data set, you might need to create multiple models (different math) and then pick the one that performs best based on your data.
  4. Establish a standard. How closely does your model predict the action or result that came out of your training data? A perfect model would anticipate the result every time. While that usually doesn’t happen, the goal is to get as close as possible to achieving the desired results, and then use that model as a standard moving forward.
  5. Test the validation data. Based on the validation data from step two, evaluate the performance of your model. If the validation data doesn’t match up, you may need to step back and select a different training model, and then validate the data again. This is an intricate process. When and if the results do not match expectations, you may have to start from the beginning. Make sure you are collecting the right types of data before running the process again.
  6. Utilize the machine-learning model. Upon completion of your efforts, you should have a model that can be used to predict an action or result based on the available inputs. At some point, input parameters may change or another system modification may be required; in this event, you will need to go back periodically and update the model based on new data.

Regulatory Landscape Presents New Challenges and Complexities

DonNewlon_V2 Don Newlon | V.P./G.M., Food Retail, Cold Chain
Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Significant regulatory changes — including some just a few weeks old — were summarized at our latest E360 Forum, which was held in Chicago on October 5. Read the highlights below or watch the full video for complete details.

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During the next four years, the industry will face no fewer than 10 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) rulings on refrigerants — as low as 700 GWP for AC chillers and 150 GWP for other applications. These have been coming for a while, but in the last three months there have been three major developments:

  1. The Department of Energy (DOE) finally confirmed that energy standards will be established for all walk-ins. These appeared in the federal register on July 10 and will become effective in 2020.
  2. The EPA approved R-452A for use in remote units/walk-in applications.
  3. Most significantly, on August 8, the 2015 SNAP ruling (rule 20), which delisted certain HFCs such as
    R-404A, was struck down by the U.S. Court of Appeals DC Circuit. If that ruling stands, refrigerants like
    R-404A and R-507 could be back on the table. However, the court immediately issued an order withholding the decision. So, SNAP is still in place — for now.

The last matter is likely to be tied up in the Courts for some time, but some states like California may create additional regulations to fill the void. Yet, no matter how it’s resolved, there appears to be enough global momentum to stay the course on phasing down HFCs.

The most common industry strategy has been the deployment of natural alternatives acceptable under SNAP, including R-290 (propane), R-744 (carbon dioxide) and R-717 (ammonia). While a lot of progress has been made, a significant part of the market remains uncomfortable with the potential flammability of propane, the pressure of CO2 and the potential toxicity of ammonia.

This has sparked a growing demand for the lowest-GWP, non-flammable (A1) refrigerants available. The question now is: How far do we need to go to find a middle ground between natural and A1 options? We’re interested in discussing that with you.

About half of our customers have basic compliance plans in place, but as of three months ago, around 80 percent still weren’t ready. From products to plants to people, most anticipate costly and time-consuming changes to meet new regulations.

The magnitude of the changes will require a holistic look at the system level — and perhaps even the ecosystem level. In the next five years, our research suggests innovation will need to look very different in six key areas:

  • Serviceable — easy to maintain for new and experienced technicians
  • Simple — less complexity
  • Sustainable — addressing energy, environment and economics
  • Safe — customer safety is paramount
  • Stable — reliable and efficient
  • Smart — controls are easy and intuitive

Stronger collaboration can help all of us meet these challenges. To aid this effort, we’ve created The Helix Innovation Center to advance research and education in heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration. We encourage your input and collaboration as we strive to meet these goals.

[Webinar Recap] Technological Solutions to Help Modern Refrigeration Challenges

benpicker Ben Picker | Copeland Units Project Manager

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

View our most recent E360 Webinar, “Using Technology to Help Meet Modern Refrigeration Challenges.”

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Today’s commercial refrigeration industry is facing a confluence of challenges. Chief among these are a surplus of regulations, a shortage of qualified technicians, and a consumer base demanding fresh, premium quality foods. And while supermarket, restaurant, mixed retail and convenience store operators try to sort out these complexities, they’re also tasked with driving profitability.

Fortunately, commercial refrigeration manufacturers have stepped up their efforts in recent years to develop technologies to help store operators achieve their compliance, sustainability and profitability goals. In our recent E360 Webinar, I discussed the current shape of the regulatory landscape and how operators can leverage these technologies to address a wide range of challenges.

At the heart of the solution is the emergence of component, system and supervisory electronic controls to provide continual monitoring, automated reporting and diagnostics. Combined with the inherent efficiencies of scroll compression technology, these electronics help operators respond to the federal and state regulations that are mandating significant environmental and energy-efficiency improvements.

I explained how these electronics-enabled refrigeration systems and components can be leveraged to help maximize efficiencies through techniques such as capacity modulation and low-condensing operation. The specific ways technology can be used to protect the environment, reduce energy usage and ensure food safety include:

  • Detecting refrigerant leaks and reducing overall system refrigerant charge
  • Performing on-demand controls such as anti-sweat and defrost
  • Monitoring temperature and humidity conditions from farm to fork

The good news for operators is that by adopting refrigeration strategies that utilize these technologies, they can address many of their compliance challenges simultaneously, while protecting profitability. For example, built-in diagnostic capabilities help technicians quickly troubleshoot and resolve system issues before they could lead to food losses. The benefits are not only reduced food shrink and maintenance costs, but much-needed assistance to mitigate technician shortage concerns.

To learn more about technological solutions to help modern refrigeration challenges, view this webinar in its entirety.

 

How Regulations Are Driving Refrigerant Changes in Commercial HVAC

David Hules_Blog David Hules | Director of Commercial Marketing, Air Conditioning

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

 

This blog summarizes an article from our most recent E360 Outlook, entitled Regulations Bringing Refrigerant Changes to Commercial HVAC Market.” Click here to read it in its entirety.

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Among the well-known factors driving change in the commercial HVAC market — including advances in building automation and connectivity, and increasing focuses on comfort and air quality — refrigerant regulations have yet to make a major impact. But that will likely change soon, as U.S. regulations will be driving a change in which types of refrigerants can be used in commercial HVAC equipment, specifically chillers.

As a key supplier to equipment manufacturers, Emerson is helping the industry prepare to make this transition. Like the approach taken with commercial refrigeration, we are currently working backward from the implementation dates to adequately design, test and supply the components needed to work with potential new refrigerants.

Part of that preparation also involves helping our customers stay informed and educated about how the coming changes will impact their operations and infrastructure.

Under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program, current popular refrigerants R-410A, R-407C, R-134A and others will be delisted in chiller applications effective January 1, 2024. This is prompting the evaluation of low global warming potential (GWP) replacement refrigerants for use in commercial chiller applications.

In this ongoing industry effort to identify low-GWP replacements for R-410A and other refrigerants, four main criteria are being considered. When combined with technology, a viable alternate refrigerant must:

  • Have proven safety properties and conform to building codes and safety standards
  • Be environmentally friendly, with zero ozone depletion and low GWP
  • Offer long-term availability at a reasonable capital cost
  • Provide performance equal to or better than current refrigerants to keep energy consumption low

Currently, there are only a few low-GWP, high-performance refrigerants listed as acceptable by the EPA. While natural refrigerants such as ammonia, propane and CO2 are among these, they are rarely used in chiller applications, primarily because of toxicity, flammability and efficiency concerns. As a result, the most viable, low-GWP replacements approved by the EPA fall into the A2L safety classification.

A2Ls, which are also mildly flammable, present their own set of challenges that the industry is working to solve or minimize. Efforts are currently underway to update A2L safety standards (e.g., UL standards) that will also necessitate an update to building codes. To be included in the next building code cycle, these updates ideally need to be finalized and approved by the beginning of 2018. Any delay in approval likely delays the timeline by which A2L-compatible new equipment becomes available in the market.

At this stage, staying informed is the best way for end users to prepare for the coming refrigerant transition in commercial chiller applications. Depending on refrigerant options and building code updates, HVAC equipment will be changing.

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