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Evaluate System Lifecycle Performance When Making the Decision to “Go Green”

AndrePatenaude_Blog_Image Andre Patenaude | Director, Food Retail Marketing & Growth Strategy, Cold Chain

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

I recently contributed to an ACR News publication with an article which addressed the topic of “green refrigeration.” The article, entitled A Greener Landscape for Commercial Refrigeration, explored why and how operators are making the transition to more eco-friendly refrigeration systems. View the full article here or read a summary below.

As global and national refrigeration industry dynamics continue to rapidly evolve, more business owners and supermarket operators are seeking new refrigerant and equipment alternatives. Ever-changing refrigerant and energy regulations, combined with an increased awareness of the environmental impacts of legacy refrigeration systems, are prompting more stakeholders to explore the green and growing edges of the refrigeration landscape.

But because commercial refrigeration systems can potentially be in service for decades, end users must carefully consider not only today’s regulatory requirements, but also tomorrow’s potential constraints. This means making the most informed equipment decisions possible with the goal of maximizing the investment throughout the system’s lifecycle. Doing so requires a fundamental understanding of the environmental impacts and financial considerations of a commercial refrigeration system.

Total equivalent warming impacts
While today’s regulations are primarily focused on reducing the global warming potential (GWP) from direct emissions of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants, it’s also important to remember that the total equivalent warming impact (TEWI) also accounts for indirect emissions — or the amount of greenhouse gases generated from the refrigeration system’s energy consumption. It’s estimated that these indirect emissions represent the majority of total climate impacts.

Only by evaluating both energy consumption and refrigerant GWP — including leaks and disposal — over the lifetime of a system can we estimate a system’s full lifecycle climate performance (LCCP).

Environmental and financial sustainability
Operators who are considering going green must also factor in the financial viability and sustainability of new or upgraded refrigeration systems. This means determining not only first costs and installation expenses, but also estimating the long-term maintenance and service requirements.

For manufacturers of these new eco-friendly equipment, components and systems, their task is twofold: 1) utilize lower-GWP refrigerants to meet regulatory requirements, while 2) minimizing ownership and operating costs.

Building a greener future
Like much of the commercial refrigeration industry, Emerson believes that the adoption of environmentally responsible, financially viable refrigeration systems will become more commonplace over the next decade. After all, there is a historic precedent for refrigerant phase-downs, including the ban on ozone-depleting substances which began in the 1990s and is now coming to fruition. Under the authority of the Montreal Protocol and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Act, ozone- depleting substances like R-22 will no longer be manufactured or imported into the U.S. as of Jan. 1, 2020.

Today, the global reduction of fluorinated gases (aka F-gases) is being driven by the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which has now been ratified by more than 80 countries. As federal regulations continue to take shape and regional mandates become more prevalent throughout the U.S., it seems inevitable that the industry will eventually make the transition to more eco-friendly refrigeration systems.

Emerson has helped support this transition for many years by working with early adopters of low-GWP refrigerants and supporting technologies. Those operators who are taking proactive steps now will have a head start on this transition and be able to provide insights from which the rest of the industry can learn.

Evaluating Sustainable Supermarket Refrigeration Technology

AndrePatenaude_Blog_Image Andre Patenaude | Director, Food Retail Marketing & Growth Strategy, Cold Chain

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Progressive Grocer recently interviewed me about Emerson’s and the commercial refrigeration industry’s efforts to help promote the emergence of more sustainable, refrigeration technologies. The complete article can be found here.

Evaluating Sustainable Supermarket Refrigeration Technologyd

It’s not news that supermarkets are under continuous regulatory pressure to not only lower the energy demand of their refrigeration systems, but also to make the transition to low global warming potential (GWP) and zero ozone depletion (ODP) systems. The permanent ban on R-22, long the industry standard, becomes official on January 1, 2020.

What is news is how intensely suppliers and retailers are focused on and sharing information on sustainability initiatives intended to sharply reduce the costs and impact of their refrigeration systems, both in anticipation of future regulations and to attain long-term economic and environmental sustainability.

As different manufacturers approach these issues with a variety of new technology options, the challenge becomes defining new standards for sustainable products and systems, so that the industry can converge on proven, synergistic solutions.

Taking a full system’s approach to sustainability

At Emerson, our approach to sustainability is based on a multi-faceted goal. First, sustain the environment through lower-GWP refrigerant and technology choices. Second, sustain companies financially from a total cost of ownership perspective. And third, focus on energy efficiency as a path to sustainability through forward-looking engineering and the implementation of new monitoring and control technologies, particularly Internet of Things (IoT) capabilities.

At Emerson, we take a full system approach to evaluate the sustainability of new and existing technologies in the context of multiple key selection criteria. This is part of Emerson’s “Six S’s” approach to refrigeration sustainability: simple, serviceable, secure, stable, smart and sustainable.

(To learn more about the rationale, methodology, application and impact of Emerson’s “Six S’s” philosophy, read the blog found here.)

Exploring the potential of natural refrigerants

One area of Emerson’s focus is our work to better understand and then implement emerging natural refrigerants, such as R-744 (carbon dioxide) and R-290 (propane) for different types of applications.

Recent innovations include the development of an integrated display-case architecture. This R-290 system is designed to use one or more compressors and supporting components within cases, removing exhaust heat through a shared water loop — incorporating our expertise in R-290 compressors and our experience with stand-alone condensing units. We’ve also developed a full range of CO2 system technologies, including valves and controls for both small and large applications. For cold storage applications, our modular refrigeration units utilize both CO2 and ammonia-based refrigerant configurations.

Early adopters pave the road to the future

Over the past decade, there have been many retailers committed to testing sustainable refrigeration technologies and low-GWP refrigerants in their stores. For example, the article quoted Wayne Posa of Ahold Delhaize USA, who discussed the company’s transition from R-22, stating: “Food Lion has been committed to zero-ODP and low-GWP refrigerants for several years.”

Different manufacturers are taking different approaches to studying and applying refrigerants and technologies to reach that goal, from the use of hydrofluoroolefin (HFO) refrigerants (such as R-448A and R-450) in distributed refrigeration systems to proven CO2-based system architectures.

In the area of refrigerants — let alone technologies in development for increased energy efficiency and remote monitoring and control — the refrigeration industry continues its search for a new standard. As Brian Beitler of Coolsys, a consulting and contract engineering firm explains, “Between transcritical, ejector systems, NH3 over CO2, cascade, propane, multidistributed and hybrid gas coolers, the jury is still out.”

As we move closer to the most sustainable standard for refrigerants, Emerson continues its work on total refrigeration system sustainability — in refrigerants, energy efficiency, and control — as guided by our “Six S’s” philosophy. This work is our road map to the future.

 

Integrated R-290 Cases Expand Into U.S. Markets

AndrePatenaude_Blog_Image Andre Patenaude | Director, Food Retail Marketing & Growth Strategy, Cold Chain

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

I was recently asked to contribute to an Accelerate America article about the increasing use of R-290 in the U.S. commercial refrigeration market. The article featured a variety of perspectives from supermarket operators and equipment manufacturers. Read the full article (pg. 38) and more on Emerson’s perspective below.

Integrated R-290 Cases Expand Into U.S. Markets

A growing number of American retailers — including Target, ALDI US and Whole Foods Market — have been deploying self-contained, R-290 cases as spot merchandisers in hundreds of stores, many of which are mainly served by centralized rack systems. Some retailers regard these units as partial or even full-store alternatives to using a centralized rack-based system.

Obviously, this comes as no surprise to Emerson. Not only have we been partnering with R-290 equipment manufacturers for many years, we also support operators and commercial refrigeration designers alike in their efforts to utilize R-290 — and a variety of other lower-GWP and natural refrigerants — in their systems. As others have stated in the article, this trend reflects a shift in the research and development processes for some manufacturers, in that fewer emerging architectures are being designed to utilize hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) gases.

It’s further evidence that, regardless of the unpredictable state of environmental regulations, R-290 use in commercial refrigeration continues to gain traction. We at Emerson are seeing the use of integrated case architectures — where one or more R-290 compressors is/are housed within a refrigerated case — and the continued use of completely self-contained units as the most likely paths to wider adoption of integrated R-290 in 2019 and beyond.

While R-290 systems may have originally been born out of necessity to address environmental concerns, today they’re perceived in the market as much more than just eco-friendly alternatives. With the expansion of smaller-format stores and increasing retail urbanization, many times there simply isn’t enough space to accommodate a machine room for a traditional central system. In these scenarios, plug-and-play, low-charge, R-290 systems are an ideal fit.

The safe use of R-290, which is classified as an A3, highly flammable refrigerant, is governed globally by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and nationally by the Underwriters Laboratory (UL). Historically, these standards mandated that R-290 charge limits should be limited to a maximum of 150g. However, the IEC recently updated their standard (IEC 60335-2-89) to allow the use of up to 500g of A3s like R-290. This charge limit increase will enable more application flexibility for European food retailers.

It’s important to note that in the U.S., the UL standard still mandates a maximum of 150g charge limit for A3s. Even with the low charge limit of 150g, R-290 cases have proven viable options for many leading retailers in the U.S. market and abroad.

While the industry adapts to the charge limit increase, there are real-world installations that are also indicative of the safety and reliability of these self-contained, R-290 cases. Since 2013, an HEB grocery store in San Antonio has utilized the R-290 cases installed throughout the entire store as its primary refrigeration source. The designer of that architecture, who was also interviewed in the same article, stated that these cases have proved to be both safe and reliable — and have had no leaks since they’ve been installed.

Today we’re achieving more flexibility using R-290 systems with micro-distributed architectures utilizing integrated cases. They are designed to remove compressor exhaust heat via a shared glycol water loop that’s directed to the roof of the facility for heat removal. These systems typically stay within the 150g limit and enable a greater degree of scalability.

It will be interesting to see how the possibility of increasing the R-290 charge limit, as has been discussed and studied within the industry for years, might impact system design in the future. For now, R-290 seems to have a place — albeit a relatively niche one — in U.S. markets.

Regulatory Uncertainty Impacts Refrigerant Decisions

AndrePatenaude_Blog_Image Andre Patenaude | Director, Food Retail Marketing & Growth Strategy, Cold Chain

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

I was recently asked to contribute to an ACHR The NEWS article about the uncertainty surrounding the dynamic regulations governing the use of refrigerants. The article provided perspectives from several industry stakeholders, and I was happy to discuss Emerson’s views on the short- and long-term implications of the situation. Read a summary of the article below and view it here in its entirety.

For the last two years, the commercial refrigeration industry has been in a period of uncertainty regarding the regulations that govern the use of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants with high global warming potential (GWP). Since the U.S. DC Court of Appeals ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) did not have the authority to phase down HFCs, the EPA’s role in the national HFC phase-down has been unclear.

R-22 phase-out is still in effect

For the time being, the EPA’s authority covers only the transition from ozone-depleting substances, such as the chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) R-22. So, even though the HFC rules have been vacated, the EPA still has the authority to phase out R-22, which is scheduled to take place on Jan. 1, 2020.

While there’s plenty of discussion about the fate of HFCs, it would be unwise to presume that the 2020 R-22 phase-out won’t have significant impacts. In fact, it may surprise some to learn that there are still many operators with older refrigeration systems currently charged with R-22. But after Jan. 1, they must either retrofit their systems with lower-GWP refrigerants or continue to recover and reuse R-22 until their supplies run out — with the understanding that the latter choice is not a permanent solution.

HFC phase-down continues in California and other states

The absence of a federal mandate to phase down common HFCs is not deterring California from taking its own steps. Per a recent ruling by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), R-404A and R-507A are no longer allowable in many new commercial refrigeration applications.

California’s regulatory stance is a reminder that a retailer’s geographic location is an important factor in the development of their refrigerant strategy. While California is currently taking the lead on U.S. HFC reductions, there are currently

As retailers evaluate their future refrigerant options, state-specific environmental regulations will factor prominently in their decision processes. For example, operators in California are well aware of the efforts to phase down HFCs and most likely have alternative refrigerant plans in place. These operators are either planning for retrofits or trialing new alternative refrigerant architectures.

Strategies for moving forward

Fortunately for operators, component and equipment manufacturers have continued developing solutions that feature a wide range of lower-GWP refrigerant alternatives. These solutions are helping retailers align their sustainability objectives with their refrigeration architectures, and include the following strategies:

  • Retrofit using lower-GWP HFOs — Moving from R-404A to R-448A or R-449A may require adding compressor cooling and other relatively minor system changes but can help operators preserve their existing system investments. Deploying energy optimization best practices will also help them reduce indirect emissions, which lessens their overall carbon footprint.
  • Transition to a new and/or natural refrigerant system — Natural architectures offer maximum carbon footprint reductions and are considered by many as the only true future-proof solutions available today. These systems can be installed in new locations or in parallel with an existing system, allowing the retailer to slowly transition to the natural solution.

Emerson is continuing to develop a variety of alternative refrigerant solutions designed to help operators and equipment manufacturers reduce their carbon footprints. Regardless of the regulations in your specific region, we’re here to support the commercial refrigeration supply chain as it transitions to lower-GWP refrigerant alternatives.

[Webinar Recap] Factoring Energy Management Into Your Refrigeration Retrofits

AndrePatenaude_Blog_Image Andre Patenaude | Director, Food Retail Marketing & Growth Strategy, Cold Chain

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

In today’s dynamic food retail climate, many operators are wondering why they should retrofit their aging refrigeration supermarket refrigeration architecture. For most, this is a not an easy decision to make. While you’ll often find some form of a refrigerant regulation accelerating this process, a viable refrigeration retrofit should also include plans for ongoing energy optimization. In our most recent E360 Webinar, I discussed how to merge these two considerations into a sustainable, long-term refrigeration strategy. Read the summary below and/or view the webinar in its entirety.

The transition to more environmentally friendly, future-ready refrigerants is underway, and as a result, many supermarket retailers are evaluating retrofit options on their existing systems. But for large enterprises or individual stores that consume a lot of energy, the rising costs of energy (especially in certain regions with high rates) are moving conversations toward energy management — not only in refrigeration systems, but also entire facility ecosystems and across the enterprise.

Ultimately, the goal of an effective approach to energy optimization is to minimize energy costs in every way possible. Doing so requires an understanding of the various factors that contribute to energy costs, including:

  • Energy consumption profile of key store systems such as refrigeration, HVAC and lighting
  • Peak electric consumption cycles and periods in each store
  • Time of use rates as dictated by the electrical utility, including both on- and off-peak rates
  • Seasonal changes and their impacts on consumption and electricity rates

This is particularly important in certain areas of the country where charges exceed $15 per kW during peak demand periods.

Why the focus on refrigeration?

A typical supermarket uses a centralized direct expansion refrigeration architecture which accounts for more than 50 percent of its total annual energy consumption, with HVAC systems the next largest consumer at 20 percent. At the same time, an average supermarket consumes three times more energy per square foot than other retail facilities. It’s no surprise then that these systems are becoming prime targets for energy optimization in the U.S. and around the globe.

The tendency for refrigerant leaks in traditional centralized systems — most of which are also charged with refrigerants that have a high global warming potential (GWP) — makes these systems ideal candidates for retrofits. Many of them can transition to lower-GWP refrigerants with relatively minimal retrofit requirements.

Six steps along the “Journey to Energy Excellence”

In the webinar, I cited a case study of a supermarket that went through a retrofit process in its centralized refrigeration system. The process followed a methodology that Emerson refers to as the Journey to Energy Excellence. By upgrading only the refrigeration system (i.e., the first three steps below), the supermarket reduced its energy costs by nearly $40 thousand per year.

The six steps along the journey to energy excellence include:

  1. Conduct a baseline energy audit of the existing system.
  2. Recommission the system to its original condition and setpoints.
  3. Make refrigeration technology upgrades, such as: digital compressors, variable frequency drives and floating the head/suction pressures.
  4. Change the lighting and other renewable upgrades such as adding doors, electronic expansion valves and electrically commutated motors on evaporators.
  5. Expand focus to HVAC technology upgrades, including rooftop units and demand control ventilation.
  6. Deploy a condition-based maintenance, internet of things (IoT) infrastructure to accurately monitor asset and system performance.

Each step enables progressive degrees of energy optimization, and as the case study demonstrates, implementing just the first three steps can provide significant financial gains. Collectively, this methodology can help supermarkets develop energy management strategies that consider entire facility ecosystems.

Regardless of where you are in this process, Emerson is providing solutions at every step to help retailers achieve energy excellence in stores and across the enterprise.

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