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Posts from the ‘Regulations’ Category

Refrigerant Strategies for Achieving Regulatory Compliance

Andre Patenaude | Director – Solutions Integration,

Emerson’s Commercial and Residential Solution’s Business

Choosing a refrigerant is one of the most important decisions facing food retailers today. With regulatory mandates set to take effect soon, questions about refrigerants and equipment strategies continue to dominate industry conversations. In a recent article that appeared in Contracting Business, I offered tips for achieving regulatory compliance using a variety of lower-global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants. You can also view our formatted article here.

After years of regulatory uncertainty, supermarket owners and operators have developed varying degrees of refrigerant transition fatigue. But with the passing of the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act in late 2020, regulatory compliance is again becoming a top priority. The AIM Act brings hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) regulations back into focus at a national level and proposes a significant phasedown of HFC refrigerants over the next five years.

Because compliance will no longer be a concern only for those located within California and U.S. Climate Alliance states, many operators are evaluating their retrofit and replacement options for the first time. But it’s important to understand that there is no one-size-fits-all strategy. In addition to regulatory compliance, operators must consider other key decision criteria, including operational safety, reliable system performance, the total cost of ownership (TCO) and their own corporate sustainability objectives.

At one end of the continuum, some are pursuing a one-time investment that can get them to the end game of compliance. Others may prefer to take a more incremental approach, i.e., focusing on a strategy that meets near-term compliance targets but is also capable of adapting to future standards. No matter how far along your company is on its sustainability journey — or how much progress (or lack thereof) you’ve made on your refrigerant transition — there are a wide variety of options from which to choose.

Retrofit to R-448A/R-449A in existing centralized direct expansion (DX) systems

For operators hoping to preserve their existing investments, replacing R-404A with R-448A will allow them to achieve sustainability improvements with minimal retrofit requirements. R-448A’s slightly higher discharge temperatures require additional compressor cooling, such as: head cooling fans and/or demand cooling modules or the installation of a vapor-injected scroll compressor. While this strategy may be viable for lowering carbon emissions, it may not satisfy future low-GWP regulatory requirements.

Move the condensing unit outdoors

Outdoor condensing units (OCUs) that utilize R-448A are designed to deliver lower-GWP refrigeration by servicing a limited number of medium- (MT) or low-temperature (LT) fixtures. Ideal for small, urban store formats or large supermarkets deploying new refrigeration capabilities outside of their existing DX systems, OCUs offer installation flexibility and reliability in a variety of scenarios. As A2L refrigerants become available for use in the future, this distributed OCU approach will enable even lower-GWP refrigeration.

Distribute scroll racks throughout the supermarket

Scroll racks provide a scaled-down, distributed version of a conventional rack system that can be strategically installed in proximity to different refrigerated sections. This allows retailers to significantly reduce their overall refrigerant charge — today with R-448A and potentially A2Ls in the future — while benefiting from increased system reliability and energy efficiency. In Europe, A2L versions of these systems have already been successfully trialed and deployed.

Deploy micro-distributed (self-contained) units

Ideal for retrofits, remodels and spot merchandising, flexible stand-alone (aka self-contained) units are factory-charged with R-290 and a 150g charge limit. With the recent Underwriters Laboratories (UL) approval of potentially larger R-290 and A2L charges, this micro-distributed approach will support even greater system capacity in the future. They also utilize lower-GWP HFCs. Manufacturers are designing larger self-contained cases that can integrate a single compressor, refrigeration circuit and electronic controls within the unit itself. This approach can then be scaled from one to multiple units with all cases connected to a shared water loop to remove heat from the store.

Simplify with a distributed scroll booster

Another emerging distributed approach utilizes the low-pressure, lower-GWP R-513A for LT and MT circuits in a scroll booster architecture. This system is designed to eliminate the high discharge temperatures and compression ratios typically found in LT systems. Today, distributed scroll booster systems deliver improved energy efficiencies and high reliability within a familiar A1 operating envelope. This architecture also provides future-state regulatory assurance by offering compatibility with very low-GWP A2Ls.

Boost compliance with CO2 (centralized)

CO2 transcritical booster systems offer an environmentally friendly alternative to HFC-based centralized DX systems. Utilizing R-744 for LT and MT loads, this proven architecture allows operators to achieve compliance with regulations for the foreseeable future. However, the refrigerant’s high-pressure and unique performance characteristics increase system complexities and require the assistance of CO2-trained technicians. This system strategy is already widely adopted globally and is becoming more popular among U.S. retailers suffering from refrigerant transition fatigue.

At Emerson, we are developing refrigeration technologies to help industry stakeholders meet their current and future regulatory mandates. Not only can we help you successfully deploy any of the strategies discussed in this blog, but we’re also ready to help you make the transition to a low-GWP refrigeration strategy that aligns with your operational and sustainability objectives.

CO2 Emerges as an Industrial Refrigerant Alternative to Ammonia

Lee Van Dixhorn | Director of New Solutions Development, Vilter

Emerson’s Commercial and Residential Solution’s Business

With its excellent thermodynamic properties and high efficiencies, ammonia (aka NH3; refrigerant name R-717) has long been the preferred refrigerant in low-temperature (LT) cold storage warehouses and light-industrial refrigeration applications. But because operators assume a degree of risk when using ammonia, many are evaluating the potential of CO2 (refrigerant name R-744) as a green, lower-risk alternative. In a recent article for Engineered Systems, I explored the emergence of CO2 in the industrial sector.

 

Despite increasing global adoption in commercial refrigeration, CO2 has yet to make significant inroads in the industrial sector. Its high operating pressure and unique characteristics pose equipment design and system architectural challenges for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). But today’s industrial OEMs are building upon the framework of successful CO2 architectures used within food retail applications, such as CO2 transcritical booster and cascade systems. Theoretically, it’s a matter of scaling these systems up for industrial use.

Market drivers of CO2 adoption

Efforts to increase the supply of CO2-based industrial refrigeration equipment are driven largely by new market demands.

 

  • Last-mile delivery considerations — In response to the accelerated adoption of e-commerce in food retail applications, many light-industrial distribution and fulfillment (D&F) facilities have arisen in urban areas to shorten the distance to consumers. But the risk of an ammonia leak in highly populated areas threatens to not only shut down a facility but also evacuate the surrounding area. Operators of these light-industrial facilities are seeking a lower-risk, green alternative.
  • Lowering ammonia charges and designing for safety — The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has mandated safety requirements for systems charged with more than 10,000 pounds of ammonia. This has led to the exploration of all-CO2system architectures and those that combine CO2 and ammonia to lower ammonia charges and move refrigeration circuits out of occupied spaces.
  • Global hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerant phasedown — The recent passing of the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act has brought the global HFC phasedown back into focus in the U.S. Meanwhile, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and/or U.S. Climate Alliance states are pushing forward with their own aggressive phasedown schedules. Industrial operators who have traditionally preferred using HFCs over ammonia are evaluating alternative refrigerant options, such as CO2.
  • Blurring of lines between commercial and industrial OEMs — With CO2emerging in the industrial sector, and low-charge ammonia systems being trialed in commercial architectures, OEMs are leveraging their legacy experience to cross into adjacent markets. However, commercial OEMs need to understand the increased demands of industrial applications and develop equipment that is built to withstand their rigors.
  • Sustainability initiatives — Regardless of all other market and regulatory considerations, many companies today are establishing and adhering to corporate sustainability objectives. This requires selecting refrigeration architectures that are both safe and environmentally friendly. As a green natural refrigerant, CO2is helping businesses to achieve these objectives.

Supporting the transition to CO2

Although it’s unlikely that CO2 will ever completely replace ammonia as the preferred refrigerant in large-charge industrial applications, CO2-based refrigeration equipment is becoming a more viable option in light-industrial scenarios.

With extensive expertise in both ammonia- and CO2-based refrigeration, Emerson is uniquely qualified to support traditional and emerging industrial applications. Our Vilter™ single-screw compression technology is not only built to withstand the rigors of industrial refrigeration, but it’s also capable of managing the high pressures of CO2 transcritical booster applications. In addition, our ever-expanding CO2 product portfolio includes a breadth of solutions for transcritical, cascade and secondary architectures.

From compression technologies, controls and variable-speed drives to supervisory services and a wide range of CO2-approved system components, we are a CO2 refrigeration solution provider and partner to leading industrial operators and food retailers.

 

Long-awaited R-290 Charge Increase Opens New Refrigeration Opportunities

Katrina Krites | Director of Strategic Marketing, Cold Chain

Emerson’s Commercial and Residential Solutions Business

For many years, the use of flammable refrigerants — such as A3 hydrocarbon R-290 (or propane) — has been a keen area of collective focus among the regulatory bodies governing refrigerant safety standards in commercial refrigeration. Offering excellent energy efficiencies and very low global warming potential (GWP), this natural refrigerant has long been approved for use in applications with a maximum charge limit of 150 grams. Recently, the Underwriters Laboratory (UL) has approved the second edition of its UL 60335-2-89 standard, which includes higher R-290 charge limits that would expand its potential uses in commercial refrigeration.

To date, R-290’s 150-gram charge limit has hindered its wider adoption, narrowing its use to self-contained refrigeration cases or requiring the use of multiple condensing units to achieve higher capacities. The updated UL standard raises the charge limits on these commercial stand-alone displays based on whether they have an open or closed design:

  • 500-gram maximum charge limit in open appliances (without doors)
  • 300-gram maximum charge limit in closed appliances (with doors or drawers)

The 500-gram charge in open appliances raises the limit to 13 times the lower flammability limit (LFL) of R-290, while the 300-gram charge limit in closed appliances is eight times that of R-290’s LFL.

From an application design perspective, these higher charge limits will help original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to increase system capacities while capitalizing on R-290’s high efficiency and low-GWP rating (GWP=3). For contractors, consultants and end-users seeking to meet sustainability objectives or comply with refrigerant regulations, self-contained R-290 cases have become integral to their overall refrigeration strategies.

The first step toward wider adoption

The approved update to the UL 60335-2-89 standard is a key first step in the path toward wider R-290 adoption in commercial refrigeration. Although OEMs should begin planning their design cycles to enable these charge increases, other regulatory approvals will need to take place before higher-charge R-290 systems can be implemented throughout the U.S. and Canada. Pending approvals by other governing bodies include:

  • Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program
  • American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) 15 safety standards for refrigeration systems
  • Model Code updates in the upcoming code revision cycle
  • State and local building code updates

 

For many U.S. industry insiders, the R-290 charge limit increase represents a logical next step in the progression of this natural refrigerant. Even prior to the UL approval, some sustainably-minded operators have worked with their local building code administrators to implement systems with higher charges of R-290. In addition, a 500-gram R-290 charge limit has been in place in Europe since 2019, when the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) approved the increase under its IEC 60335-2-89 standard for self-contained commercial display cases.

R-290 ready compressors and condensing units

For years, Emerson has been producing compressors and condensing units, designed to deliver additional merchandising space for OEMs that develop self-contained R-290 refrigeration equipment. Our current R-290 compression portfolio includes:

  • Copeland™ fixed speed hermetic reciprocating compressors
  • Copeland variable speed hermetic reciprocating compressors and variable frequency drives (VFDs)
  • Copeland fixed speed scroll compressors
  • Copeland variable speed scroll compressors and variable frequency drives (VFDs)
  • Copeland M-Line condensing units
  • Controllers and system components approved for use with R-290

In addition, we’re currently expanding upon our R-290 qualified products to include the following compressors and condensing units, which will be available in 2022:

  • Copeland horizontal fixed speed scroll compressors
  • Copeland horizontal variable speed scroll compressor
  • Corresponding condensing units utilizing new horizontal scrolls

Our R-290 product portfolio will be updated to accommodate the larger R-290 charges that will be adopted in the future.

Preparing for the future of R-290

After years of speculation, the commercial refrigeration industry in the U.S. can begin planning for the use of systems with larger charges of R-290 — enabling higher-capacity refrigeration while benefiting from R-290’s proven efficiencies and lower-GWP rating. Emerson is prepared to support this transition by developing partnering with OEMs and stakeholders to design in higher R-290 charge limit solutions to achieve regulatory compliance, fulfill their sustainability objectives, and reduce energy consumption.

While there are challenges to the implementation of propane, for environmentally forward-leaning companies, it is an increasingly attractive option. While new clarity in the regulatory environment should help to clear the way for wider R-290 adoption, the implementation of industry-wide safety practices will be necessary for propane to gain full adoption.

Propane is more combustible than some HFCs and there are a number of special-use considerations for using it in refrigeration applications. Some examples include, but are not limited to:

  • Sealed/gas-tight or fire-/explosion-proof electrical components (UL471/EN 60079-15)
  • Spark-free fan motors (brushless)
  • Ventilation and leak sensor safety measures
  • Special charge and leak detection processes during manufacturing

It’s also important to note that while propane has tremendous potential in commercial refrigeration, it is not a “drop-in” refrigerant. Equipment and components must be specifically designed for use with propane, as it requires a different compressor that will not always directly match the capacity or cost of existing HFC models.

Please reference any applicable product and application safety standards for the detailed list of considerations.

[New E360 Webinar] Preparing for the Safe Use of A2L Refrigerants in Commercial Refrigeration

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

Emerson’s Commercial & Residential Solutions Business

The recent passing of the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act is accelerating the phasedown of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants and renewing the search for viable refrigerant alternatives, including those classified as A2L (mildly flammable) and A3 (highly flammable). But while A2Ls are among the leading alternatives capable of achieving regulatory requirements, the safety standards governing their use in the U.S. have yet to be finalized. Our next E360 Webinar — which will take place on Thursday, May 27 at 10 a.m. ET/7 a.m. PT — will feature a panel discussion about how A2Ls have been successfully deployed in regions where they have already been approved.

Around the globe, the phasedown of HFC refrigerants is prompting a transition toward alternatives with lower global warming potential (GWP). While A2Ls and A3 have been approved for use in Europe and are now widely adopted in commercial refrigeration applications there, the development of safety standards is ongoing within the U.S.

Currently, several industry working groups are evaluating A2Ls and A3s in equipment and field applications, including UL 60335-2-89 (the equipment standard based on IEC 60335-2-89) and ASHRAE-15 (the application standard updated for commercial refrigeration based on ISO 5149) — both of which are approaching the final phases of approval.

Our upcoming E360 Webinar will explore one European retailer’s sustainability journey from HFCs to low-GWP A2L refrigerants. As part two of the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute’s (AHRI) webinar series, How to Not Only Survive, but “Win” the Refrigeration Industry HFC Phasedown, this webinar will provide an opportunity for the U.S. to learn from their experience and prepare for a future with A2L refrigerants.

The webinar will include the following experts and practitioners:

  • Helen Walter-Terrinoni of AHRI
  • Lauren MacGowens of AHRI
  • Tim Anderson of Hussmann Corporation
  • Stephen Spletzer of The Chemours Company
  • Brian Churchyard of ASDA (a European retailer)

Attendees will learn about the key points of the European retailer’s journey:

  • Defining sustainability goals and objectives — and meeting them
  • Transitioning from A1s (HFCs) to A2Ls
  • Applying A2L systems in a safe and effective way
  • Understanding the impacts on store and equipment design, training and maintenance
  • Imparting lessons learned along the way

To learn more about the status of U.S. safety standards and how to use A2L refrigerants safely and effectively in retail applications, register for this informative webinar.

 

Refrigerant Transition Gains Momentum

Andre Patenaude | Director – Solutions Integration,

Emerson’s Commercial and Residential Solution’s Business

For over a decade, environmental advocates around the globe have recognized the need for the commercial refrigeration industry to make the transition from hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants to lower-global warming potential (GWP) alternatives. An HFC phase-down is well underway in many countries and regions, and today conditions are favorable for these efforts to increase within the U.S. I recently contributed to an ACHR The NEWS article where we discussed how recent developments may accelerate this refrigerant transition.

Recent regulatory developments in the U.S. have increased the likelihood the HFC phase-down will become a higher priority for equipment manufacturers, contractors, and food retailers. Among the greatest contributing factors include:

  • The inclusion of HFC phase-down legislation in the recent Omnibus and COVID relief bill
  • A new presidential administration with a greater commitment to environmental stewardship
  • Continued regulatory activities taking place at the state levels

All eyes on California

For several years, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has been proposing regulations targeting HFC emissions reductions in commercial refrigeration equipment used within grocery stores. In 2019, CARB banned the use of R-404A in new or retrofit centralized systems. Last December, CARB finalized those regulations and established an enforcement date, beginning January 1, 2022. Details of the rulemaking impact new (or remodeled) and existing facilities:

  • A limit of 150 GWP for new or fully remodeled facilities in California that utilize commercial refrigeration equipment containing more than 50 pounds of refrigerant.
  • Existing food retail facilities with refrigeration systems charged with more than 50 pounds must collectively meet a 1,400 weighted average GWP or 55 percent greenhouse gas potential (GHGp) reduction relative to a 2019 baseline by 2030.

As a result (in California, at least), natural refrigerant-based systems — such as CO2 transcritical boosters — are often considered leading options for compliance in new facilities.

California’s new regulations, along with new developments in federal refrigerant regulations, will present opportunities for manufacturers who already developed lower-GWP solutions. To support these efforts, Emerson has been qualifying its compressor lines to use a variety of lower-GWP refrigerants for more than a decade. Also, we are developing full-system strategies — such as CO2-based technologies and our distributed scroll booster architecture — that leverage new refrigerant alternatives and enable the implementation of lower-GWP systems. In addition, for retailers in California, we developed smart tools to help them evaluate their store fleets and calculate how they can achieve CARB compliance.

Elsewhere, a growing coalition of states — the U.S. Climate Alliance — has vowed to follow California’s lead. These member states are also continuing to develop their own legislation to enforce HFC phase-down commitments.

New federal legislation could provide industry-wide consistency

While state-level regulations have pushed forward, the status of refrigerant rulemaking at the federal level has been stagnant for several years — particularly after a 2017 court ruling determining the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) did not have the authority to regulate HFCs under the Clean Air Act. But with the recent passage of the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act of 2020 (AIM Act) as part of the Omnibus and COVID relief bill, that may all soon change. The AIM Act restores the EPA’s authority to phase down the consumption and production of HFC refrigerants and establish sector-based limits.

As importantly, the new federal mandate will hopefully simplify the growing complexity of managing a multitude of state-led HFC phase-down initiatives. Ultimately, a federally-led refrigerant compliance program would provide much-needed guidance to the industry and remove the burden facing individual states. In addition, the industry could even see the adoption of new rulemaking from the EPA’s Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program.

This uptick in regulatory activity will likely result in a busy period for HVACR contractors and food retailers around the country — particularly those in California who will be preparing for the CARB regulations to take effect next year. Emerson is committed to helping commercial refrigeration stakeholders in the U.S. and throughout the world achieve their refrigeration goals and make the transition to lower-GWP refrigerant alternatives.

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