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Earth Day and Refrigerants: A Look Back — and Forward

Jennifer_Butsch Jennifer Butsch | Regulatory Affairs Manager

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

It’s Earth Day, which means we should all take a minute to reflect on how we can do our part to make the planet a greener place. In the world of commercial refrigeration, environmental initiatives and sustainability best practices typically focus on limiting the harmful effects of hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) and hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants. When these refrigerants leak into the atmosphere via direct emissions, their environmental impacts can be measured in terms of ozone depletion potential (ODP) and global warming potential (GWP).

But when considering the total equivalent warming impact (TEWI) of commercial refrigeration systems, direct emissions are only part of the equation. TEWI also considers indirect impacts, or the greenhouse gases generated from the energy consumed to run these systems — estimated to represent as much as 95 percent of the total climate impact. At Emerson, we take both energy efficiency and refrigerant GWP into consideration to evaluate the full lifecycle climate performance (LCCP) of a system and its fluids.

Montreal Protocol to complete R-22 phaseout

Today, most global refrigerant regulations are focused on phasing down high-GWP HFCs. But it’s important to remember that these activities have a precedent that’s more than three decades old. In 1987, the Montreal Protocol treaty aimed to phase out ozone-depleting substances (ODS), such as the commonly used HCFC, R-22. This global treaty was since ratified by 197 countries, including the United States, Canada and Mexico, all of whom have followed its recommended phaseout schedule.

The next step in this process will take place in 2020, when the production and import of R-22 will no longer be allowed under the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Act. It may come as a surprise to some, but there are still untold operators with older refrigeration systems that are currently charged with R-22. Unlike smartphones and other commodities that we change or upgrade every year,  commercial refrigeration equipment can have a lifespan of 20 to 30 years. This phaseout will likely lead to an increase in system retrofits in the near term, especially as operators exhaust their supplies of R-22.

Thankfully, there’s a good deal of evidence that since the removal of ozone-depleting substances from the environment began, the ozone layer is on the mend. Some estimates state that the ozone hole above Antarctica could close by the 2060s.

HFCs targeted for global warming potential

As the HCFC phaseout began decades ago, the industry transitioned to HFCs with very low ODP. Unfortunately, many of these have since been discovered to have varying degrees of GWP. In fact, the most common HFC used in commercial refrigeration is R-404A, which has a GWP of 3,922 and is considered on the high end of the GWP scale. It’s no surprise then that it was among the first refrigerants to be targeted for phasedown under the EPA’s Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) rules 20 and 21.

But per the 2018 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals, the EPA no longer has the authority to regulate the use of refrigerants based on their GWP under the framework of the Clean Air Act. While we expect the EPA to soon provide clarity on the future of its HFC initiatives, there currently is no federal mechanism through which the proposed phasedown of high-GWP refrigerants will take place.

In the meantime, California has adopted the original EPA SNAP framework into law, and as of January 1, R-404A and R-507A are no longer allowable in many new commercial refrigeration applications. California is just one of 23 states or territories in the U.S. Climate Alliance that are making commitments to enforce similar climate protection initiatives. Currently, this growing alliance represents half of the U.S. population and more than 50 percent of the national GWP.

Globally, the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol seeks to expand the treaty’s scope from just ozone protection to addressing global warming by phasing down short-lived climate pollutants, including HFCs. While this amendment has yet to be ratified by the United States, it has achieved the required ratification of 20 member countries to take force — including Canada and the United Kingdom, among others. For participating countries, the Kigali Amendment took effect on January 1.

Exploring the alternatives

Because regulatory variances occur from state to region to country, there are vastly different levels of environmental awareness throughout our industry. While operators in California are cognizant of the state’s efforts to phase down HFCs, there are many U.S. areas where transitioning to lower-GWP refrigerants isn’t as high of a priority.

Regardless, many top retailers have begun the process of exploring low-GWP refrigerant options as part of their sustainability objectives. Not only do they have retrofit plans in place, some are even trialing alternative refrigerant architectures in their stores — with hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs), HFO/HFC blends and natural refrigerants as leading options.

There are relatively minimal retrofit requirements when moving from R-404A to R-448A/R-449A — both A1 HFC/HFO blends — such as adding compressor cooling and other minor system changes. For a greenfield location or a complete system overhaul of an existing site, operators may consider one of many emerging low-GWP options, including:

  • Low-charge ammonia chillers on the roof
  • A2L (mildly flammable) blends in chillers on the roof and machine rooms
  • Distributed, small-charge systems with both A1 and A2L refrigerants
  • R-290 integrated cases outfitted with micro-distributed systems
  • CO2 transcritical and/or cascade systems using CO2 for low temperatures, and an HFO (or lower-GWP HFC) for medium temperatures

 

Refrigerant management best practices

As always, proper refrigerant management practices are important, regardless of the type of refrigerant used. Operators should start with a documented leak detection plan that includes the necessary tools and early-detection methods to identify and quickly respond to leaks. Leaks are not only bad for the environment; they also degrade refrigeration performance and system energy efficiencies.

With the new class of refrigerants, it’s especially important that technicians are trained to understand proper handling, charging and performance characteristics. In addition, as systems charged with higher-GWP HFCs eventually reach the end of their lifespans, it’s critical that service technicians follow proper recovery and disposal protocols.

Earth Day is a good time to reflect on the environmental progress our industry has made. At Emerson, we’ll continue to support sustainability objectives with compressors, components and systems that are both environmentally responsible and economically viable.

Refrigerant Regulations: 2018 Recap and 2019 Impacts

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

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

The year 2018 brought many changes to refrigerant regulations, with additional activity expected in 2019 and beyond. This blog highlights some of the key developments, which were presented in a recent E360 article. Read the full article here.

 

The regulation of refrigerants continues to be a source of great uncertainty in the commercial refrigeration industry. As global, national and state regulations have targeted the phase-down of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants in recent years, some in the industry have begun the transition toward alternative refrigerants with lower global warming potential (GWP). But these environmentally friendly options raise additional questions about performance and safety.

All in all, it’s a complex regulatory mix that got even more complicated in 2018. But we’re here to recap recent events and place them into a larger context.

The status of EPA SNAP Rule 20

In 2017, the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled to vacate the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Significant New Alternative Policy (SNAP) Rule 20. The court ruled that the EPA did not have authority to phase down HFCs under the Clean Air Act (CAA) — which was originally intended to eliminate ozone-depleting substances (ODS) — and thus could no longer enforce its 2015 GWP-based mandates.

In the absence of Rule 20, the commercial refrigeration industry has many questions about what the path toward a more sustainable and environmentally friendly future for refrigerants will look like. Industry calls to overturn the District of Columbia Court of Appeal’s decision were declined by the Supreme Court, which stated it would not hear the HFC case1. Currently, the EPA is drafting new regulations that will clarify its plans to move forward with SNAP. We anticipate details on their position early this year.

EPA rescinds other HFC-related regulations

The EPA has also indicated that it will no longer enforce refrigerant delistings and has proposed to roll back other HFC-related regulations2. In particular, the EPA has proposed excluding HFCs from the leak repair and maintenance requirements for stationary refrigeration equipment, otherwise known as Section 608 of the CAA.

California adopts Rule 20 as the basis for its initiatives

Regulatory uncertainty at the federal level is not preventing states from adopting their own refrigerant regulations and programs. California Senate Bill 1383, aka the Super Pollutant Reduction Act, was passed in 2016 and requires that Californians reduce F-gas emissions (including HFCs) by 40 percent by 20303. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has been tasked with meeting these reductions.

Since 2016, CARB had been using EPA SNAP Rules 20 and 21 as the bases of its HFC phase-down initiatives. Even after SNAP Rule 20 was vacated, CARB moved to adopt compliance dates that were already implemented or upcoming. The passing of California Senate Bill 1013 — aka the California Cooling Act — in Sept. 20184 mandates the full adoption of SNAP Rules 20 and 21 as they read on Jan. 3, 2017. The law is currently in effect and does not require additional CARB rulemaking to uphold compliance dates.

CARB is also proposing an aggressive second phase of rulemaking that would further impact commercial refrigeration and AC applications. CARB has held public workshops and invited industry stakeholders to comment on the details of this proposal.

Meanwhile, many other states have announced their plans to follow California’s lead on HFC phase-downs. The U.S. Climate Alliance, formed in 2017 out of a coalition of 16 states and Puerto Rico, is committed to reducing short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs), including HFCs. Among these alliance states, New York, Maryland, Connecticut and Delaware have announced plans to follow California’s lead on HFC phase-downs.

Refrigerant safety standards and codes under review

Many of the low-GWP, hyrdrofluoroolefin (HFO) refrigerants are classified as A2L, or mildly flammable. R-290 (propane) is also becoming a natural refrigerant option for many low-charge, self-contained applications. Currently, national and global governing agencies are evaluating the standards that establish allowable charge limits and the safe use of these A2L and A3 refrigerants.

Internationally, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) has proposed increasing charge limits for refrigeration systems in IEC60335-2-89 as follows:

  • A2Ls — from 150g to 1.2kg
  • A3s — 500g for factory-sealed systems, and will remain at 150g for split systems

These proposals are still under review and will likely be published sometime in 2019.

Kigali Amendment took effect on Jan. 1

The regulatory uncertainty in the U.S. can sometimes obscure international efforts underway to phase down HFCs. The Montreal Protocol has led the way on this effort for nearly a decade5. In 2016, 197 countries met in Kigali, Rwanda, and agreed on a global HFC phase-down proposal. Known as the Kigali Amendment, this treaty has been ratified by 53 countries (including the E.U.) and took effect on Jan. 1 for participating countries. The U.S. is still considering ratification.

As we move into 2019, there are many moving pieces on the regulatory chess board, but also some encouraging signs of progress. We will be providing the very latest regulatory updates in our next E360 Webinar. Register now to stay informed.

  1. https://www.achrnews.com/articles/140040-supreme-court-declines-to-hear-hfc-case
  2. https://www.epa.gov/section608/revised-section-608-refrigerant-management-regulations
  3. https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201520160SB1383
  4. https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180SB1013
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montreal_Protocol#Hydrochlorofluorocarbons_(HCFCs)_Phase-out_Management_Plan_(HPMP)

Trends Impacting the Supermarket Refrigeration Landscape

JasonBorn_Blog_Image Jason Born | Innovation Lead, The Helix
Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

During our E360 Forum last year in Houston, I led a Q&A panel discussion on the trends and market forces impacting the refrigeration landscape in food retail. Sharing their thoughts and insights were industry experts Derek Gosselin, director, technical product support, Hillphoenix; and Brad Thrasher, south central regional sales manager, Zero Zone. Below are some of their views on key trends; view the full E360 Forum presentation.

The Changing Face of Food Retail

Thirsty from wandering the aisles of your local grocery megamart? How about a craft beer break? Or maybe shopping for food just makes you hungry. Grocery shoppers today can virtually eat their way around the world as in-store food bazaars offer freshly prepared ethnic fare: Mexican “street food”, noodle bowls and wood-fired pizza. No time to shop? There’s always curbside pick-up of weekly grocery staples on your way home from work — just click and collect. And today, going small has never been bigger, with millennials and Generation Z flocking to urban areas and higher-density living. It’s no surprise that smaller-footprint grocery and food specialty stores are popping up in mixed-use buildings that were never intended to support things like complex refrigeration or HVAC systems.

Yes, the face of food retail is changing. And with this change comes a host of new opportunities (and challenges) for commercial refrigeration. I’ve summarized some of the key takeaways from this informative question and answer session.

On e-commerce, omnichannel and digital shopping

The first topic of discussion was the impact of the digital shopping trend. Today, more consumers are shopping for groceries online. I asked the panelists how brick-and-mortar retailers were responding.

Thrasher: I’ve seen some reports (FMI-Nielsen) that say that online grocery sales could grab up to 20 percent of the market. That seems pretty aggressive to me. But it’s definitely a rising trend. Traditional food retailers are responding by adding services like curbside pick-up. They are making home deliveries. You have to adapt to whatever direction the market is going.

Gosselin: For the retailers, it’s about what identifies them as different. Amazon is driving sales directly online. What can you offer to differentiate yourself, not only from online shopping, but the competition in your marketplace? Many stores have found success creating destination centers within their produce and other perimeter departments: food preparations, beer and wine tastings, restaurants, meals-to-go programs. That’s where the trends are going to be. And, of particular interest to everyone here: How do make sure you have appropriate refrigeration at these dynamic destination centers so that they can control your food quality and get it efficiently distributed?

On Click & Collect

Building on the idea of curbside service, I asked our panelists about the grocery pick-up lockers that are popping up everywhere and what that might mean for the future.

Gosselin: If you’re going to offer perishables as part of your curbside pick-up, you’re going to need to incorporate refrigeration. And it’s not just with in-store Click & Collect programs. I’ve also seen trends where retailers will place a portable refrigerated unit on your porch, so when they deliver fresh food or frozen items, they have a convenient and appropriately refrigerated location. Most consumers are probably not going to give you the key to their home.

Thrasher: Many stores are looking at self-contained or hybrid systems. Future refrigeration will need to be more flexible so that retailers can expand quickly and easily. If your curbside (pick-up) starts minimally but grows quickly, you’ll want a flexible, easy-to-implement solution so you can move quickly to serve customer demand.

Curbside pick-up is a relatively recent phenomenon. To add it as service, you have to dedicate and adapt more space in your store. But that doesn’t come without cost and questions. As we all know, for everything new you add in-store, something else will probably need to come out.

On the future

Before jumping into an audience Q&A, I asked the panelists how their retailers are dealing with change and some of the main factors driving their refrigeration decisions.

Thrasher: No one knows with certainty where the future will go. Some decisions will continue to be informed by technology and regulatory changes. And, certainly, costs always play a critical role. With refrigerants, for example, as regulations come, they may eliminate possibilities. It’s hard to go “all in” into a refrigerant when it could eventually be obsoleted, driving costs up for replacements. The same concept applies to system architectures.

Gosselin: How do you get in front of change? Do you go micro-distributed? Do you use natural refrigerants? What technologies will be developed in answer to changing rules?

For the end user, the challenge is not only what do they have to do to maintain their current fleet of stores, but what are they going to do for future stores so that they don’t add to the problems? And then how do they do that under a cost-effective and compliant refrigerant management program?

Thrasher: The bottom line is that there’s simply no one solution for everyone. Every retailer has a different set of objectives and challenges, influenced by regulations, technology and costs, but ultimately driven by the evolving needs of the markets they serve.

To take a deeper dive into our discussion, be sure to watch the full E360 Forum session.

 

Beyond Saving: What’s Next in Supermarket Power Management?

JamesJackson_Blog_Image James Jackson | Business Development Manager
Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Last fall, a gathering of food retailers, industry professionals and energy experts converged in Houston for our latest E360 Forum. This daylong event was packed with the latest news, views and best practices on hot-button industry issues: regulations, emerging technologies and more.

Matt Smith, project manager for San Diego Gas & Electric’s Emerging Technologies Group, and I explored fresh ideas on what the future holds for supermarket power management. What follows are just a few of our observations.

Future of lighting rebates dim

Utility incentive programs for food retailers, in all markets, are changing. Lighting upgrades and retrofits fueled by rebate incentives were once low-hanging fruit for commercial and industrial consumers alike. However, laborious rebate application processes have contributed to waning interest and participation — especially among food retailers. Policy and regulations have also had an impact. As CFL and LED technologies become standard, rebates are no longer seen as necessary to incentivize adoption and won’t help utilities reach their energy-savings targets. Now energy providers are looking for other more innovative and targeted ways to incentivize efficiency.

Collaboration key to more customer-centric incentives

Admittedly, supermarkets are an underserved market for utility companies. There are simply not a lot of programs designed with the distinct needs of grocery retailers in mind. However, Matt thinks this is changing.

“We’re moving toward a more vertical approach on how we run programs in the sense that we’re serving a customer segment rather than a [category] like refrigeration … That will lead to programs that are better suited for specific customer segments like supermarkets or convenience stores.”

Matt went on to say that utilities want to hear from food retailers. They welcome the opportunities to connect and collaborate — either directly or virtually. Many offer cooperative bodies, online forums and other ways to engage. In California, utilities and other energy professionals have created the Emerging Technologies Coordinating Council (www.etcc-ca.com) as way to collaborate, develop and facilitate new and emerging technologies. Other regions offer similar resources and channels.

Pay-for-performance programs offer opportunities for efficiency and innovation

Pay-for-performance programs are another relatively recent energy-efficiency trend — one that doesn’t rely on rebates or other incentive-based equipment purchases. It allows participants to identify various energy-saving measures. Payments are made over time and are based on actual energy savings measured at the meter.

The beauty of pay-for-performance programs is that they can offer an integrated, more holistic approach to energy efficiency. Savings can come from building retrofits and equipment upgrades as well as from behavioral or operational and maintenance activities. These programs also shift the responsibility for energy savings from the utilities to energy-efficiency project implementers — and can be real incubators for innovation, efficiency and new technologies. Less prescriptive and more proactive, they offer greater opportunity for collaboration and invention.

Power markets and effective demand management

Many utilities are incentivizing commercial and industrial customers to participate in demand management/demand response programs. These are developed to cut electric consumption during peak times of the day when electricity is in high demand. Effective demand management rewards customers who can conserve when the grid is taxed the most. While a proven practice in other industries and abroad, these programs are not commonly employed among food retailers in the U.S., even though the opportunities and technologies are available.

The high usage of electricity by supermarkets makes it very attractive to participate in these programs. However, reliability and flexibility in a supermarket’s HVACR and energy requirements are absolutely essential for success. Technologies like today’s smart refrigeration systems and thermal storage are ways to optimize thermal potential by shifting electricity usage at expensive times to lower-rate periods.

More grocery retailers of today are looking hard at current HVACR systems and exploring strategies and technologies to shift energy consumption without compromising food safety. We’re excited about the possibilities.

As I shared, “Demand management is becoming a really big deal using supermarkets. I use the term ‘virtual power plant’ pretty easily in this conversation. If you’ve got a flexible store and can provide thermal storage, you could actually use that store as a virtual asset for the utility. [It creates] a kind of push and pull with the power demand … All this stuff is extremely exciting, especially in this segment or business.”

Demand management programs and today’s power markets represent a real opportunity to generate revenue by using thermal capacity, transforming your energy-eating equipment into an energy asset.

To learn more about any of these programs and the emerging technologies that are driving them, watch the full E360 Forum presentation.

Prevent Food Poisoning Outbreaks with FSMA and Environmental Monitoring

JulianHough_Blog_Image Julian Hough | Product Marketing Communication Specialist
Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Symptoms of a foodborne illness outbreak

For companies involved in food handling, the potential symptoms of a food poisoning outbreak include: local or national recalls; fines; legal action; potential financial losses; and tarnished brand reputations. With this in mind, compliance with new regulations and laws regarding food safety and the use of facility-wide environmental monitoring are your best protections against these symptoms.

A serious problem

Food poisoning is a major cause of death in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), foodborne illnesses affect 48 million Americans annually, resulting in 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. And in an age of 24/7 news coverage, any food poisoning outbreak can put a company under a harsh public relations spotlight. In 2015, at least 64 people contracted salmonella from tomatoes at a Mexican quick-serve restaurant. It resulted in two class action lawsuits and eroded consumer trust. A top-selling ice cream brand recalled all of its products in 2017 when 10 reported cases of listeria resulted in three deaths. In late 2018, all of the romaine lettuce in the U.S. was pulled from stores for a month while the CDC searched for the source of its e-coli contamination. The fact is, health officials, the CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will work to track down the source of virtually all food poisoning outbreaks all the way down the supply chain and cold chain.

The risk comes from not seeing the problems

All too often, the processors found at fault had no idea they were putting consumers at risk. Like all processors, they have to balance the cost and burden of ensuring food safety while still maintaining a profitable business. But many have little way of knowing — or the data to warn them — that they were not maintaining safe handling procedures nor providing a safe environment for food safety.

FSMA: addressing the problem

With the signing of the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in 2011, a series of regulations set out seven steps to prevent food poisoning outbreaks through prevention programs and environmental monitoring. The FSMA reflected the need for a modern, global food safety system, “a system in which industry is systematically, every day, putting in place the measures that we know are effective in preventing contamination” (Michael R. Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, 2015).

Regulations like the FSMA are often regarded as an expensive burden. But when you realize that food poisoning outbreaks cost the food processing industry $75 billion per year, investing in preventing problems rather than paying for the consequences makes FSMA compliance an economic imperative.

That’s why Emerson  has been tirelessly working to help ensure our Cooper-Atkins products and solutions are in compliance with FSMA mandates, and providing environmental monitoring systems and end-to-end data services that help control and manage food safety anywhere in the cold chain.

How does the FSMA affect you?

New laws were passed in 2016 to bolster the 2011 FSMA for both large and small FDA-registered companies. To comply, companies must:

At Emerson, we have the expertise, products and systems to help you implement fully compliant HARPC systems and controls, as well as consult on your cGMP education and training programs.  Emerson’s Cooper Atkins business specializes in advanced environmental monitoring systems.

The importance of environmental monitoring

There are many areas along the processing chain where food may be compromised. Storing, receiving and holding food-related items at a temperature that prohibits bacterial growth are required parts of your company’s HARPC plan, making integrated, wireless environmental monitoring systems a must-have.

Processing facilities that invest in integrated, wireless temperature monitoring systems benefit in numerous ways:

  • Eliminating manual labor
  • Streamlining the collection of environmental data
  • Creating custom reporting
  • Complying with new FSMA laws and FDA rulings

As a leading manufacturer of wireless monitoring solutions, Emerson offers a range of environmental monitoring systems through our Cooper-Atkins business. TempTrak Enterprise® is a facility-wide solution that can monitor an unlimited number of points in unlimited locations — all from one software platform. NotifEye® kits are affordable, streamlined and self-installed systems for more localized operations. Both are exception-based systems: they only send out alerts when preset limits are exceeded, saving time and labor while protecting your inventory and, more importantly, brand integrity.

An investment in protection

When you look at the human cost of food poisoning outbreaks, as well as the millions of dollars in recall costs and destroyed reputations, FSMA compliance and facility-wide environmental monitoring and data systems become a highly cost-effective investment. With compliance and a data trail, you can not only prevent foodborne outbreaks, but also verify compliance and protect your brand.

Julian Hough is a product marketing specialist with Cooper-Atkins, a business unit of Emerson that has been manufacturing temperature monitoring equipment for 130 years.

 

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