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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.

Refrigerant Transition Continues Along State and Federal Lines

Jennifer Butsch | Regulatory Affairs Manager

Emerson’s Commercial & Residential Solutions Business

Emerson recently participated in the Atmosphere America online conference, where commercial refrigeration industry stakeholders discussed the ongoing transition from hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants to those with lower global warming potential (GWP). Dr. Rajan Rajendran, Emerson’s vice president of system innovation center and sustainability, and I were speakers at the event; ACHR The News reported on our thoughts on the topic in a recent article.

Recapping recent events that impacted refrigerant rulemaking

To recap the activities regarding U.S. federal refrigerant regulations, I explained how these policies have faced many legal headwinds over the past few years. These began in 2017, when in response to a court challenge, a federal court vacated the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) Rule 20 on the basis that the EPA didn’t have authority to regulate non-ozone depleting substances. If you remember, SNAP Rules 20 and 21 had been adopted on the basis of reducing global warming by phasing down the use of higher-GWP HFCs in some commercial and air conditioning equipment.

In response to the court’s ruling, the EPA released a guidance document stating that they would no longer be enforcing the delisting of HFCs under SNAP Rules 20 or 21. As a result, the scope of the SNAP program — including its ability to regulate HFCs and implement Rules 20 and 21 — remains to be seen. As of this time, the industry is still waiting for clarification from the EPA on this matter.

Reviewing new regulatory activity

However, as I explained at the conference, the EPA did introduce a SNAP Rule 23 proposal earlier this year, which recommended the use of three additional lower-GWP refrigerant alternatives for commercial refrigeration — R-448A, R-449A and R-449B — subject to narrow use limits. While the industry is currently awaiting the EPA’s final rule on SNAP Rule 23, this new activity demonstrates that the EPA is continuing to evaluate new refrigerants and list additional substitutes — which is a positive step in the right direction for our industry.

But in the absence of federal regulations governing HFCs, many states have taken measures into their own hands. The U.S. Climate Alliance now consists of 25 member states that are taking the lead on climate policy and in general, refrigerant regulations. So far, the majority of those efforts have been through the adoption of SNAP Rules 20 and 21, which California was the first to adopt into state law via its California Air Resources Board (CARB) initiatives. And as we’ve discussed previously in this blog, additional CARB proposals are currently under review and being formulated with guidance and input from industry stakeholders.

Rajan also spoke about a pair of new bipartisan bills that have been introduced in the House and the Senate which would phase down the production and consumption of HFCs over a 15-year period in accordance with guidance from the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol. The passing of these companion bills — known as the Senate American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act of 2019 and the House American Innovation and Manufacturing Leadership (AIML) Act of 2020 — would authorize the EPA to regulate HFCs and establish standards for HFC management (service, repair, recovery, recycle, reclaim, etc.).

Both the AIM and AIML Acts would not affect existing equipment but would provide allowances for the aftermarket servicing needs of our industry. Their goals would be to preserve previous technological investments while supporting innovation and potential job creation.

As Rajan stated, by adopting a federal approach proposed by these bills, our industry would benefit greatly from much-needed regulatory consistency and certainty. It’s important to note that Emerson and its industry partners, such as the American Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), have pledged their support for these new bills. In addition, since these bills do not preclude states’ rights, efforts that have taken place in California and other states are still valid. While these states might be slightly leading in the refrigerant transition, our hope would be that the rest of the country would soon catch up and follow a standardized approach.

Low-GWP Strategies for Achieving CARB Compliance

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

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Emerson was recently invited to participate in a webinar series hosted by the North American Sustainable Refrigeration Council (NASRC) aimed at helping retailers prepare for California’s refrigerant regulations and incentives. In the webinar, Diego Marafon, refrigeration scroll product manager at Emerson, and I discussed emerging refrigeration strategies for supporting low-GWP (global warming potential) compliance and hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) reductions while uncovering opportunities to lower operating costs.

Low-GWP Strategies for Achieving CARB Compliance

In the U.S., the California Air Resources Board (CARB) is leading the charge for regulations impacting commercial refrigeration. For large centralized refrigeration systems — which today make up the majority of retail refrigeration — CARB’s current proposal would require new systems with more than 50 pounds of refrigerant to use refrigerants below 150 GWP. As a result, CO2 is a primary refrigerant choice for operators seeking to stay with a large centralized system and meet CARB’s proposed regulation.

But as retailers evaluate new system architectures, they also have an expanding variety of decentralized and distributed options to consider. What’s more, CARB’s latest proposals provide new approaches for achieving HFC reductions that are giving retailers the option to remodel, rather than invest in all-new refrigeration systems for their fleet of stores. These proposals include:

  • Greenhouse gas emission potential (GHGp) reduction by 55% — Requires the total GHGp of all refrigeration systems in all stores to be 55% below the 2018 baseline by 2030, where GHGp equals the sum of the refrigerant charge times GWP — or GHGp = ∑(charge X GWP). This is a per-company target which gives retailers some flexibility in achieving compliance. As retailers retrofit their stores, they’ll receive credits for refrigerant charge and GWP reductions. But retailers must have the abilities to track, report each store’s GHGp baselines as well as document and verify any equipment changes.
  • Weighted average GWP (WAGWP) reduction < 1,400 — Requires the WAGWP of each retailer to be less than 1,400 by 2030. It’s calculated by finding the sum of the charge times GWP in every system in every store, divided by the total charge — or weighted average GWP = ∑(charge X GWP) / ∑ This approach allows retailers to aim for a fixed target — without the need for tracking a company baseline — while giving them the option to only retrofit the stores needed to meet the 1,400 GWP target. Retailers may need to apply this equation to multiple retrofit scenarios to successfully deploy this strategy. Simply put, they’ll need to do the math and figure out how to best reach this target.

Weighing your retrofit options

In the webinar, we discussed each of these approaches and ran the numbers to show how retailers could take a long-term view of their store fleet strategies and make modifications to achieve their goals — utilizing refrigerant changes, system retrofits or installing new refrigeration systems. Using a WAGWP calculator developed by Emerson, we demonstrated different strategies for achieving CARB compliance, providing cost projections for each option. If you’re interested in learning more about the WAGWP calculator, you can contact your salesperson, or visit the contact us page.

For this exercise, we looked at a hypothetical scenario of a California retailer with 25 stores, 66 total refrigeration systems and a WAGWP of 2,715. Then we evaluated three different retrofit options and calculated their impacts:

  • Refrigerant change from R-404A to R-448A — By changing out the refrigerant in all 25 stores, the retailer could achieve a WAGWP of 1,383 (nearly a 50% GHGp reduction). The total CapEx for the changes were $3M, with a cost per WAGWP reduction of $2.2k.
  • Convert half the stores to a new CO2 system — By installing new CO2 systems in 12 of the stores and leaving the other 13 untouched, the retailer could achieve a WAGWP of 1,277 (or a 54% GHGp reduction). The total CapEx for the changes were $27.3M, with a cost per WAGWP reduction of $19k.
  • Hybrid approach — By converting 20 systems to R-448A and installing 28 new scroll booster systems (with R-513A) — leaving 18 systems as is — the retailer could achieve a WAGWP of 1,520 (or 55% GHGp reduction). The total CapEx for the changes were $15M, with a cost per WAGWP reduction of $13k.

These scenarios demonstrated how to calculate system retrofit and remodel impacts while showing the multiple alternatives for implementing lower-GWP remodel strategies. It’s important to realize that in California, CARB has incentive programs to help retailers offset the cost of making these system changes.

But CARB is just one piece of a dynamic regulatory landscape — which includes energy, environmental and food safety regulations within varying regional, national and global jurisdictions — that continues to drive changes in refrigeration equipment and architectures. In response, Emerson is committed to developing a full spectrum of low-GWP refrigerant technologies, including CO2, R-290 and hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs), as well as lower-GWP HFC A1 refrigerants that are still in use. Most recently, we’ve expanded our offerings to support the industry’s need for more flexible, distributed architectures which deliver both high energy efficiencies and low-GWP ratings.

To learn more about using Emerson’s tools for calculating the impacts that system retrofits or remodels would have on your store fleet’s environmental footprint, view this NASRC webinar with the title of, “Emerson Technology Solutions.”

 

How Emerson Is Taking on Today’s Most Pressing Refrigeration Challenges with Copeland Scroll ™

Phil Moeller | Vice President – Product Management, Refrigeration
Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Since its introduction nearly 30 years ago, the Copeland Scroll has revolutionized the standards for refrigeration performance and reliability. An article from the E360 Product Spotlight provides an overview of Emerson’s recent innovations for the Copeland Scroll. Click here to read the article in its entirety.

How Emerson Is Taking on Today’s Most Pressing Refrigeration Challenges with Copeland Scroll ™

The commercial refrigeration industry has changed drastically in recent years due to new regulations and consumer trends. Operators demand an ever-widening spectrum of applications, from large centralized systems to small walk-in freezers and coolers. Energy efficiency and environmental sustainability have become business priorities. And digital technologies promise connected, predictable visibility to refrigeration systems.

That’s why Emerson’s research and development (R&D) teams for Copeland Scroll have come up with innovative technologies that optimize performance and reliability, helping you take on these emerging challenges.

Innovations that bring more power, flexibility and advanced capabilities to the Copeland Scroll lineup

Wider application and temperature ranges: We’ve expanded the ranges of commercial applications for Copeland Scroll compressors, now spanning fractional ¾ horsepower ZF*KA compressors designed for low temperatures up to the 17 horsepower K5 compressor for low- and medium-temperature applications. You’ll find a variety of solutions within this horsepower range for your low-, medium- and extended medium-temperature applications.

Inherently robust product designs: Minimalistic, fully hermetic Copeland Scroll designs use up to 70 percent fewer moving parts than semi-hermetic, reciprocating compressors. That means they have no complex suction and discharge valves; can start under any system load; eliminate many vibration issues; improve liquid and debris handling; and, with their compact and lighter-weight designs, make servicing easier.

Energy compliance: Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) rely on Copeland Scroll technology to help meet the Department of Energy’s annual walk-in efficiency factor (AWEF) ratings for walk-in coolers and freezers. Copeland Scroll’s inherent efficiency and reliability are the foundation of AWEF-compliant condensing units in leading OEM equipment design strategies.

Alternative, lower-GWP refrigerants: The Copeland Scroll lineup includes many compressors rated for use with lower-GWP synthetic and natural refrigerant alternatives. We continue to evaluate and test emerging refrigerants to help operators achieve their performance and sustainability goals.

Performance-enhancing technologies: Emerson R&D teams for Copeland Scroll lead the industry in rolling out performance-enhancing innovations, from digital modulation capabilities to liquid- and vapor-injection options and lower condensing operation. These technologies improve system reliability and capacity while meeting today’s demanding regulatory requirements.

Smart diagnostics and protection: Today, many Copeland Scroll compressors are equipped with on-board CoreSense™ Diagnostics. CoreSense provides advanced motor performance monitoring and protection, diagnostics, power consumption measurements and communication capabilities. Other compressors can be retrofitted with our panel-mounted, remote diagnostic systems. This active protection technology is driven by advanced algorithms and fault detection logging and histories, helping enable technicians to quickly diagnose and repair systems.

Product development partnerships: As an Emerson customer of Copeland Scroll, you have access to Emerson’s extensive capabilities to support your own product development efforts, collaborating with us on application engineering; design, testing and certification services; proof of concept; and application development.

Closer ties to the industry’s largest support network: Copeland Scroll compressors are backed by a network of more than 1,000 Copeland-authorized locations and over 600 certified Copeland technical specialists — a base of operations that can quickly deliver the products and technical assistance you need. Our new, fully featured Copeland™ Mobile app connects to the Emerson Online Product Information database for on-the-go access to 30 years of compressor products and specifications. It can help you quickly troubleshoot and diagnose issues and connect to our wholesaler network to check local availability of replacement products.

 

With a legacy of innovation and an eye toward the future, you can be sure that Emerson will continue to evolve to meet today’s rapidly changing commercial refrigeration requirements. To learn more about our innovations and emerging technologies, read the full E360 article.

 

GreenChill Hosts Emerson-led Webinar on Natural Refrigerant Architectures

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

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

My colleague John Wallace, director of innovation, retail solutions, and I recently partnered with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) GreenChill program to present a webinar about making the transition to an effective refrigerant architecture. In it, we discussed leading natural refrigerant systems, centralized and distributed options, and the controls schemes that support them. What follows are the key takeaways from that discussion, which you can view here in its entirety — last bullet under ‘Webinar Archives’.

Over the past decade, the transition toward natural refrigerants has been driven by a combination of dynamic market trends, which include: global refrigerant and food safety regulations, rapidly changing consumer expectations and corporate sustainability goals. This historic transition has helped accelerate the adoption and investigation of “future-proof” natural refrigerant architectures.

Regulatory drivers of transition to naturals

In the U.S., the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has not only fully implemented the now defunct EPA rules designed to limit the use of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants with high global warming potential (GWP), it is also actively working to enact more aggressive measures that would greatly impact future refrigeration system architectures. One current proposal under review would take effect in 2022 and mandate the following:

  • Systems charged with more than 50 pounds of refrigerant must use an option that is less than 150 GWP
  • New refrigerant sales with less than 50 pounds of refrigerant must use an option that is less than 1,500 GWP

But California is not alone in these initiatives; there are currently 25 states in the U.S. Climate Alliance which have vowed to follow its lead.

Since natural refrigerants are among a very small list of viable options capable of meeting the above criteria, the commercial refrigeration industry is likely to see an increase in system architectures designed to utilize natural options. These include centralized architectures for larger-charge systems and distributed (or micro-distributed) options for smaller-charged system types.

Leading natural refrigerants

When we think of natural refrigerants in commercial refrigeration, we are typically referring to R-744 (CO2 aka carbon dioxide), R-290 (refrigerant-grade propane) and R-744 (ammonia). Let’s look at their unique characteristics and how they can be effectively utilized.

CO2 has proved very effective in both low- and medium-temperature applications and is typically found in centralized systems such as secondary, cascade and transcritical booster. Having been successfully deployed in commercial and industrial applications in Europe for nearly two decades, it has made significant inroads in North America in recent years.

CO2 is not a retrofit refrigerant and is intended for use only in new systems. System designers, operators and technicians need to be aware of CO2’s unique characteristics, particularly its low critical point, high operating pressures and standing pressure (power outage) considerations. It has a GWP of 1, which puts it in an elite class of environmentally friendly options.

Propane continues to experience a global resurgence as a viable, efficient and very low-GWP refrigerant choice. Its high flammability has traditionally limited system charges to 150g, which is why today it’s found primarily in stand-alone systems that operate efficiently with a low refrigerant charge — such as integrated display cases often utilized in micro-distributed applications. In Europe and abroad, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) recently raised its charge limit to 500g; the U.S. conservatively remains at 150g. Also, propane is not a retrofit option and is intended for new systems designed specifically for its use.

With its superior thermodynamic properties, ammonia was a logical first choice for early refrigeration systems. However, its toxicity requires careful adherence to safe application procedures to ensure operator safety and customer well-being. Traditionally, it has been used in industrial, process cooling, cold storage and ice rink applications. Most recently, ammonia has been introduced into commercial applications via cascade systems that utilize lower refrigerant charges and isolate the ammonia circuit away from occupied spaces.

System controls to support natural refrigerant architectures

Because of the unique properties in these emerging natural refrigerant architectures, system controls are even more essential to ensuring efficient operation, troubleshooting and servicing. Generally, the controls are loosely coupled to the refrigeration architecture, often following either a centralized or distributed approach.

However, the expanding variety of natural refrigeration systems can also pose new challenges for operators trying to maintain controls consistency or access a unified view across different systems. Here, a supervisory system — with its ability to integrate different devices into a common user interface — ensures that all stakeholders can quickly and easily evaluate each refrigeration system. 

As regulations continue to evolve and natural refrigerant systems gain more acceptance, Emerson is prepared to help equipment manufacturers, system designers and end users utilize these very low-GWP alternatives in the development of efficient, user-friendly and economically viable refrigeration systems.

 

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