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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.

Top 10 Emerson YouTube Videos for 2018: Lights, Camera, Expertise!

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

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

At Emerson, seeing is explaining. When you need to keep pace with new technologies, regulations and ideas in fast-moving industries, you want to hear from the experts. That’s why we regularly call upon industry leaders to join us in discussions about the future of our commercial refrigeration industry. You can find many of these discussions in videos captured from informative E360 Webinars and Forums. What follows is a summary of our top 10 most-viewed videos of 2018.

  1. E360 Webinar 13: Seven Keys to Servicing CO2 Systems

CO2-based refrigeration systems with R-744 are new to a lot of service technicians, which drew a large audience to this webinar about dealing effectively with the refrigerant’s unique properties. Starting with an overview of the systems themselves, the presentation walked step-by-step through handling critical and triple points, high and standstill pressures, cylinder storage, charging and system maintenance best practices.

  1. E360 Forum: Dallas | Food Industry Forecast: Key Trends Through 2020

After a long period of stable growth, the restaurant, foodservice and food retail industries face a set of new and disruptive industry trends, with new business structures, different operating environments and business practices that are rapidly driving change. This E360 Forum discussed these big trends: new consumer expectations, the demand for localized food, farm-to-fork transparency, the role of technology and Big Data, and deconsolidation into specialized niches.

  1. E360 Forum: Raleigh | Cold Chain Evolution

The pressure to create an unbreakable global cold chain has become critical for the food industry. Every year, 33 percent of all food spoils in transit — a loss of $1 trillion. Food safety is critical to a brand’s reputation, trust and profits. Global transport and international regulations have extended the cold chain to air, land and water. This E360 Forum discussed the cold chains of yesterday and today, and described how the rapid evolution to a digitally connected cold chain provides the potential for end-to-end optimization.

  1. E360 Webinar 6: Best Practices for Evaluating Compressor System Performance

Whether you’re a commercial refrigeration OEM selecting a compressor for a new system or a food retailer choosing a new chiller, there are a lot of compressor options from which to choose, often with very different performance attributes to consider. This popular webinar discussed factors such as temperature mid-points and dew points, compressor capacities, energy-efficiency ratios and other issues crucial to selecting the right compressor with the lowest cost of ownership.

  1. E360 Webinar 14: EPA’s Final Refrigerant Ruling: Its Impact on Your Business

The EPA’s 2015 final rule on the delisting of HFC refrigerants in commercial refrigeration and AC applications sent shockwaves throughout our industries. This webinar detailed which refrigerants were selected for phase-down and when, discussed how the ruling impacted various refrigeration applications, and covered viable refrigerant alternatives for OEMs, operators, and refrigerant manufacturers and contractors. For the latest rulemaking on refrigerants, please view this regulatory update session from our most recent E360 Forum.

  1. E360 Conference 2017 | Trends in Supermarket Refrigeration Architectures

If they haven’t already, the architecture, systems and refrigerants in your supermarket are going to change — significantly. Driving the change? The drumbeat of international, federal and state regulations already arriving. This high-level conference covered a wide range of architectures, equipment and refrigerant options, their complexity, costs and maintenance requirements, and four key operational considerations: energy, economics, the environment and equipment.

 

  1. E360 Forum: Anaheim | Trends in Refrigerant System Architecture & CO2

As ambient temperatures go up, condenser and refrigerator compression efficiency go down. With new refrigerants, including natural refrigerants such as CO2, high temperatures — and the refrigerants’ critical points — become major considerations. In this technical presentation, centering on CO2 refrigerant as an example, we discussed a range of system architecture options and new equipment and components that help CO2 refrigeration tackle high ambient temperatures while maintaining performance.

  1. E360 Webinar 16: Innovation in Refrigeration

This webinar’s short title encompasses the enormous problems facing our industry today, including: dynamic regulations, the need for an unbreakable global cold chain, the call for access to all data, and the needs of a rapidly changing industry. In this webinar, we learned that the process of innovation itself has to evolve to involve every link in the refrigerated equipment value chain. You’ll see these new approaches modeled at The Helix Innovation Center at the University of Dayton in Ohio, where we’re actively pursuing innovations in refrigeration technology through an inclusive, collaborative approach.

  1. E360 Conference 2017 | The Human Equation of Facility Management

This is a story about shortages. Facility managers have a shortage of resources across the board and sometimes have to outsource their facility services. These services face a shortage of technicians — and a big gap in expertise between experienced technicians and the new generation. Under these circumstances, how do you manage costs and ensure efficient responses to facility problems? This conference presented an answer: call on technology to become more intelligent and provide technicians the information they need to do more with less.

  1. E360 Forum: Anaheim | Converting Waste Into Renewable Energy

Ever give a thought to the garbage disposal in your kitchen sink? This presentation showed that it’s no longer a simple appliance, but an environmentally responsible tool that keeps food waste out of landfills, keeps methane out of the air, and creates a new, clean energy source — right from the food scraps going down your sink. InSinkErator, an Emerson company, works to transform water treatment plants into energy powerhouses by creating biosolids to produce energy and fertilizers without waste.

 

Mobile CO2 Booster Transcritical Training Unit Launches North American Tour

Liborio Mendola Liborio Mendola | Product Planner
Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Emerson’s new CO2 Booster training unit is preparing to make several stops across the U.S. and Canada in 2019. Learn more about what this hands-on experience will offer attendees.

Adoption of the natural refrigerant CO2 (R-744) in commercial and industrial refrigeration applications is on the rise in North America and around the globe. With 0 ozone depletion potential (ODP) and a global warming potential (GWP) of 1, CO2 is considered the environmental standard by which other refrigerants are measured. But with its high operating pressures and unique performance characteristics, industry stakeholders have many questions about how to design, operate and service a CO2 system. That’s why Emerson is pleased to introduce its new, mobile CO2 Booster training unit.

The CO2 training unit is designed to give contractors, manufacturers, wholesalers and end users a hands-on experience and learn what it’s like to work on a CO2 refrigeration system. Launched in Canada in September, the unit has already visited locations in Quebec and trained more than 50 contractors. In early 2019, the unit will travel to the U.S. and make several stops, starting with an appearance in the Atlanta area timed to correspond with the conclusion of the AHR Expo. The current schedule is as follows:

  • January 16–17: Atlanta, Ga.
  • January 30–31: Orlando, Fla.
  • February 13–14: Rancho Cordova, Calif.
  • February 27–28: Elmsford, N.Y.
  • March 20–21: Cudahy, Wis.
  • April 10–11: Brantford, Ont.

Each stop will feature a two-day training session designed to accommodate 20 attendees and cover a wide range of CO2-related topics, including:

  • Subcritical vs. transcritical modes of operation
  • Overview of CO2 system architectures
  • Safe handling, maintenance and charging
  • Startup and shutdown sequences

Become familiar with CO2 and refrigeration system components

The open 360° view of the training unit allows attendees to familiarize themselves with the refrigerant and the components which make up a CO2 system. To demonstrate the volatility of CO2, the unit includes a phase change cell that shows how the refrigerant reacts to pressure changes. Starting in its liquid state, R-744 is subject to increasing pressures and begins its transition into a vapor state, then to a supercritical fluid, until it ultimately becomes a transparent gas. Then, as pressure is dropped within the cell, attendees can see the reverse of this transition as CO2 returns to a liquid state and then forms into a solid piece of dry ice.

The CO2 Booster training unit utilizes a full Emerson system that includes: low- and medium-temperature compressors, electronic controls, protectors, variable-frequency drives and transcritically rated electronic expansion valves. For ease of use, the unit is designed to improve the visibility of all components and dial gauges to demonstrate pressures and temperatures of certain elements.

The transportation container is designed for simplified transport and protection against the rigors of over-the-road travel. This container is also equipped with Emerson’s Cargo Solutions that allow live tracking of the unit’s location, ambient temperature and other conditions through Emerson’s Oversight app.

Registration for scheduled two day sessions is now open. The cost is $700 per person and includes all course materials, breakfast and lunch.

If you’re interested in learning more about CO2, be sure to reserve your spot (Class Title: CO2 Refrigeration) at an upcoming training session.

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

Exploring the Potential of CO2 Transcritical Booster Systems

By Rajan Rajendran

We installed a CO2 transcritical booster system to anchor our supermarket module at our recently opened Helix Innovation Center for several reasons. It has the potential to provide an efficient, eco-friendly refrigeration source for medium- and low-temp display cases, walk-ins and freezers. But that’s only the beginning. We designed our CO2 transcritical booster system to not only meet the entire air conditioning and heating needs of the supermarket module, we’re also reclaiming its exhaust heat for the facility’s hot water and snow melt system beneath the sidewalks.

6-Exploring_Potential_CO2_Trans_Booster

We also chose CO2 because we feel it has the potential for much broader applications than what is commonly thought in the industry today. Our system is designed with the flexibility to demonstrate and exploit these possibilities.

CO2 transcritical booster systems have gained wide acceptance in northern climates throughout the world. As a natural refrigerant with near zero global warming potential, CO2 is becoming a preferred option for retailers seeking to meet sustainability goals and take regulatory compliance out of the equation. But with a critical point of 87.8 °F, special measures are required to keep CO2 systems operating at high efficiencies above this temperature.

This is the reason very few retailers have attempted to deploy CO2 systems in warmer regions. It’s also one of the limitations with CO2 transcritical booster systems that we are determined to eliminate.

Like every industry module in The Helix, the supermarket is an entity unto itself, meaning that the power coming into the module is completely isolated. This allows us to measure the power consumed by the store on its own, while further isolating the energy consumption of any one piece of equipment. Because everything is within this controlled environment, we’re able to evaluate the performance of the CO2 transcritical booster system in the supermarket and the larger building envelope.

What all this means to our customers is that they now have a real-world test lab for designing the ideal refrigeration system for their supermarkets, simulating the conditions and environments that are most challenging without risking product loss or potential damage to their brand. While today the system is CO2 based, we have the ability to change the refrigerant as well as the system architecture. We hope that this opportunity will only spawn new ideas and open the doors to further innovation.

This blog is a summary of the article Exploring the Potential of CO2 Transcritical Booster Systems from our recent edition of E360 Outlook. Click here to learn more about the supermarket module at our recently opened Helix Innovation Center.

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