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[E360 Webinar Recap] R-290 and CO2 Are Natural Choices for Small-Format Refrigeration

AndrePatenaude_Blog_Image Andre Patenaude | Director, CO2 Business Development

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

VIEW our latest E360 Webinar on demand, Opportunities for Natural Refrigerants in Small-Format Applications.


Today’s small-format retail and foodservice operators face difficult decisions about which refrigeration architectures — and refrigerants — will be the bases of their next generation of refrigeration platforms. Whether they’re motivated by global regulatory actions to reduce the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) with high global warming potential (GWP), or simply stating sustainability objectives to improve energy efficiencies and minimize their carbon footprints, operators have a variety of lower-GWP refrigerant options at their disposal.

Natural refrigerants carbon dioxide (CO2, or refrigerant name R-744) and propane (R-290) are currently the only true “future proof” options that hold the potential to take compliance and sustainability concerns out of the equation. But their unique characteristics also introduce new safety and servicing considerations with which operators must become familiar.

In our most recent E360 Webinar, my colleague Allen Wicher, director or refrigeration marketing, and I explored the many factors small-format operators must consider when selecting a natural refrigerant system. I kicked off the presentation by reviewing the long history of natural refrigerants in commercial refrigeration and discussed the market and regulatory forces that are now driving their broad global resurgence.

In particular, I explained how the global F-gas reduction strategy to protect the environment, in combination with voluntary efforts of private industry organizations, were driving the transition away from HFC refrigerants toward lower-GWP options like CO2 and R-290. At the same time, the trend for smaller retail formats in urban areas persists, while the millennial generation continues to shape the consumer desire for convenience and more importantly, fresh, natural and organic food offerings from local, sustainable sources.

Making this decision even more complicated is an increasingly wide variety of equipment and system architectures at play. For CO2 options, I explained how smaller-format systems were scaled down versions of larger-format retail refrigeration architectures. For example, CO2 cascade and transcritical booster architectures can be effectively scaled for use as smaller, centralized systems. And for even smaller convenience store or restaurant applications — such as walk-in freezers and coolers — OEMs are now manufacturing CO2 remote condensing units.

While higher first costs can be a barrier to entry for small-format CO2 refrigeration, I demonstrated how the total cost of ownership is reduced with improved energy efficiencies, performance and lower maintenance.

Allen provided an update on the active regulatory landscape, including:

  • Safety (ASHRAE/UL) and charge limit standards (UL 427) currently underway for flammable refrigerants classified as A3 (R-290) and A2L (synthetic blends)
  • Summary of EPA refrigerant listings (currently no A2Ls are listed as acceptable for use)
  • California Air Resource Board’s aggressive stance on HFC phase-down

Allen then talked about the architectures where R-290 is currently being utilized, including: stand-alone, integrated cases and micro-distributed systems. To learn more about the use of natural refrigerants in small-format retail, click here to view this webinar in its entirety.

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