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New Research: The Six S’s of Supermarket Refrigeration System Selection Criteria

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

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Emerson recently completed a research study of leading food retailers to better understand their refrigeration system selection criteria. This blog is a synopsis of those findings.

Copeland

For several years, we’ve seen an evolution of the traditional supermarket concept, driven by a convergence of multiple market influences which include:

  • The migration to urban areas
  • Smaller store footprints
  • Renewed focuses on safety and freshness
  • Greater need for merchandising flexibility
  • The proliferation of omnichannel fulfillment models
  • The lack of qualified service technicians
  • Energy-efficiency goals and sustainability initiatives
  • The internet of things (IoT)
  • Ongoing regulatory uncertainty

Amidst these many changes, refrigeration systems have also evolved to align with modern supermarket operator preferences. To better understand how these preferences are impacting selection criteria, we recently completed a research study of several leading food retailers. We asked them which factors they feel are the most important when considering the implementation of new refrigeration systems.

We compiled results into six key categories, which we refer to as the six S’s of selection criteria. The following is a summary of those findings:

  1. Simple — Operators are seeking to minimize complexities by using systems that are easy to understand and diagnose. Many associate system simplicity with reliability and believe it can be achieved with fewer moving parts, traditional system architectures and proven refrigeration strategies.
  2. Serviceable — Technician familiarity is important to facilitate ease of service and maintenance activities, and to ensure the availability of parts and refrigerants. Engine rooms should be located away from customers and be relatively easy to access.
  3. Secure — Maintaining customer, employee and technician safety while preserving food quality and safety are always top priorities. With many operators now integrating IoT technologies for more effective facility and enterprise management, securing proprietary operational data is also critically important. Operators seek system architectures that can address these multifaceted safety and security concerns.
  4. Stable — Grocers consistently cite system stability and reliability as primary selection criteria. Systems should be capable of maintaining consistent temperatures, delivering predictable performance, and working according to design specifications.
  5. Smart Electronic controls, system connectivity and integration with facility management services via IoT are becoming more important to modern supermarket operators. They’re evaluating self-monitoring systems that give store managers immediate access to issues, allowing them to take prompt actions to protect shoppers, preserve their brands and prevent unnecessary service calls.
  6. Sustainable — For those supermarket operators driven by corporate sustainability objectives or regional regulatory requirements, the push toward lower-GWP refrigeration strategies is continuing in earnest. Sustainability also speaks to the long-term economic viability of the refrigeration selection, as operators must factor in the total cost of ownership throughout the lifecycle. Reducing energy consumption to minimize operating costs is a concern shared by all.

As refrigeration technologies evolve in response to changing market dynamics, look for emerging system architectures that align with these selection criteria. Emerson is addressing the six S’s of supermarket operator concerns by innovating new systems that blend pieces of proven architectures — borrowing from what has worked in the past and improving upon existing technologies. Stay tuned for more information on these new system strategies in the months to come.

Emerson Study Compares CO2 and Hydrocarbon Energy Efficiency in Europe

The study found that those opting for integral R-290 systems could potentially achieve up to €51,000 savings per store on maintenance, energy consumption and refurbishment. The study also points to the ongoing evolution of natural refrigerant technologies and highlights the differences between CO2 and hydrocarbon refrigeration strategies.

Read more

A Shift in Industrial Refrigeration

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

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

I discussed the large industrial refrigeration market and the use of natural refrigerants in the Accelerate America article entitled, “Exploiting CO2on pg. 16.

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For decades, ammonia (aka NH3 or R717) has been the backbone of many cold storage applications in the large industrial refrigeration market. More recently, the increasing popularity of CO2 (R744) in commercial applications has led refrigeration manufacturers to look for ways to incorporate this natural refrigerant in industrial systems. With the technology to combine the benefits of both refrigerants and facilitate this transition coming to fruition, a shift in the industry may be coming.

NH3 has excellent performance efficiency and ultra-low environmental impact, making it a near-perfect refrigerant. However, its toxicity causes hesitancy in use. Tightening regulations by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has sought to improve the safety of NH3 systems, requiring operators to provide documentation for systems charged with at least 10,000 pounds of ammonia.

Enter NH3/CO2 cascade technology, a system architecture that has been successfully deployed in many commercial applications with HFCs on the high side, to leverage ammonia’s efficiency and limit the potential for toxic exposure to workers and product spoilage.

Transitioning to the large industrial market does cause several concerns that need to be addressed, such as:

  • Finding a way to deliver high-tonnage refrigeration capacity while keeping ammonia charges low
  • Ease documentation requirements
  • Lowering the potential for exposure
  • Complexities related to installation, commissioning, operation and servicing requirements
  • Potential heat exchanger leaks of CO2 and NH3 that can mix and create ammonium carbamate, resulting in system failure
  • Maintaining uptime during the transition from a legacy system to a new cascade system

Self-contained systems

Meeting high-tonnage, cold storage requirements while addressing the known operational challenges of ammonia and CO2 meant that manufacturers have had to expand upon the existing cascade architecture. Developing a self-contained system that integrates an entire NH3/CO2 cascade system into a modular refrigeration unit seemed to be the best solution.

Designed to be located on the rooftop or next to a building of a cold storage facility, this modular refrigeration unit combines CO2 and NH3 compression technologies and electronic controls in a cascade system that contains two independent CO2 and NH3 circuits with separate condensers and evaporators (including a shared cascade heat exchanger).

The self-contained, modular unit essentially serves as the system’s mechanical room, enabling installation and efficiencies typically not found in traditional systems. Existing facilities can even install this system while their legacy system is still running, positioning the unit at the desired rooftop location and connecting the ductwork in as little as a few days. Then, as soon as the facility manager is ready, he/she can simply shut down the old system and let the new system assume refrigeration duties.

The simplicity of this drop-in, plug-and-play design also lowers maintenance requirements while improving serviceability throughout the lifecycle.

Read the full article, Exploiting CO2 on pg. 16, to find out other ways the industry is working to address these concerns and how natural refrigerants are driving innovation.

 

The Big Green Chill – Progressive Grocer

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

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

This blog summarizes an article from Progressive Grocer, entitled “The Big Green Chill.” Click here to read the article in its entirety.

Sustainability initiatives and energy-efficient practices are asserting themselves as top priorities in the minds of food retailers and foodservice professionals. Suppliers like Emerson have acknowledged this trend and have begun developing technologies and solutions that can assist with furthering these initiatives and help our customers work toward a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly future.

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Retailers can implement sustainability initiatives through the use of precise temperature and pressure controls, which allow for a true steady state of operation. These can help better enable the benefits of lowering condensing temperatures to improve the efficiency of the entire system when combined with an electronic expansion valve.

Because of an increase in competitivity in the foodservice, supermarket and transport industries, customers are seeking products and solutions which provide them assurance that operators are maintaining the highest quality of perishable food items from farm to fork.

Retailers can also utilize Emerson Copeland Scroll™ digital compressors to improve “green” operations. They have digital modulation capabilities that allow for infinite capacity adjustments within specific modulation ranges. This means that instead of having to cycle on and off to match capacity, these compressors are capable of adjusting their output to precisely match a load.

Emerson’s supervisory controls are other tools that retailers can use to manage major refrigeration, lighting and HVAC systems. Supervisory controls grant powerful energy-efficient temperature and condition management capabilities through a user-friendly, dashboard-style interface that puts critical information at the users’ fingertips.

Looking ahead, the growing adoption of newer control technologies and the upgrading of older refrigeration systems will continue into the future as two primary means of achieving sustainability and energy efficiency. The combination of new systems with enhanced digital controls will serve as a way of further realizing energy efficiencies and additional cost savings.

Along with energy-efficiency improvements, retailers are simultaneously evaluating other sustainable practices such as: the use of natural refrigerants, implementing refrigeration leak detection, deploying advanced demand-reduction methods, and exploring energy storage potential and considering how to incorporate natural refrigerants.

More retailers are likely to challenge their previous decisions in these areas and learn about entirely new architectures in store controls, refrigeration systems and HVAC units that are capable of meeting overall sustainability challenges.

For more information, read the full article here.

Blog 10: The Convergence of Ammonia/CO2 Technologies

AndrePatenaude_Blog_Image Andre Patenaude | Director Food Retail, Growth Strategy

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

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In my previous blog, I explained why CO2 and ammonia (aka NH3) refrigerant technologies are crossing over into each other’s traditional market spaces, i.e., CO2 making its way into industrial settings and low-charge ammonia systems in use in commercial applications.

As regulatory compliance concerns and sustainability objectives drive end users toward natural refrigerants, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are responding with new innovations that draw from traditional CO2 and ammonia architectures.

Let’s look at some innovations that are indicative of this convergence.

NH3/CO2 cascade — Ammonia in commercial refrigeration

Owners of large (+100-ton) commercial HFC systems are now considering implementing smaller, lower-charge NH3/CO2 cascade systems. In turn, some industrial OEMs are expanding their product portfolios to target the emerging niche for natural, energy-efficient systems in commercial refrigeration. These NH3/CO2 cascade systems are designed to operate with very low charges of ammonia (100 pounds or less) on the high side of the refrigeration cycle (in a remote location, e.g., the roof) to chill the CO2 sent out to the cases in a store.

CO2 transcritical booster — CO2 in industrial refrigeration

CO2 offers a documentation-free refrigeration alternative to long-time operators of large-charge ammonia systems. Commercial OEMs with CO2 expertise are answering the call for CO2 transcritical booster systems, which have proved viable in cooler regions. This system utilizes several compressors in parallel to meet the desired cooling requirement. CO2 blast freezers are also effective in low temperatures, especially below -40 °F.

Smaller-platform applications for ammonia

Both commercial and industrial operators with smaller facilities have a variety of low-charge ammonia options from which to choose to meet their cooling requirements and sustainability goals:

  • NH3 low-charge centralized — this remote, distributed architecture is designed to reduce the liquid line length and subsequent refrigerant charge.
  • NH3 direct expansion — available in distributed or remote varieties, this system requires the circulation of much less refrigerant.
  • NH3 chiller with pumped CO2 secondary — ammonia chills CO2 (volatile brine), which is then pumped into the refrigerated areas.
  • NH3 chiller with pumped CO2 secondary, plus CO2 cascade — combines an NH3 chiller that provides the medium-temperature load via a CO2 secondary design, plus a CO2 cascade system for the low-temperature side.

This convergence also proves that operators of commercial and industrial facilities have more in common than they realize. Both are trying to balance capital expenditures, total cost of ownership and sustainability objectives in their selection of refrigeration systems. So, the blurring of lines between CO2 and ammonia technologies in these markets is ultimately beneficial to all involved.

Read the full Accelerate America article on the convergence of ammonia and CO2 technologies [pg.16].

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