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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.

 

Emerson Will Present at GreenChill Webinar on Natural Refrigerants

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

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Emerson is happy to announce its participation in a webinar sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) GreenChill program. Join Andre Patenaude, director of food retail marketing & growth Tuesday, July 30 at 2 p.m. EDT / 11 a.m. PDT for a discussion about Making the Transition to an Effective Natural Refrigerant Architecture.

Emerson Will Present at GreenChill Webinar on Natural Refrigerants

For several years, the use of natural refrigerants in supermarket refrigeration has become an increasingly relevant topic across our industry. While taking a natural approach may seem like a far-away future concept to some, successful implementations are happening in various global regions and slowly becoming more commonplace in the U.S. as well.

Typically, discussions about natural refrigerants are part of a larger context, one that recognizes the ongoing transition from legacy refrigerants to sustainable alternatives. Here, natural refrigerants are among the most readily available, viable options, because they offer very low global warming potential (GWP) and no ozone depletion potential (ODP). But with relatively low adoption in U.S. supermarkets, there is still a fair amount of uncertainty among operators considering a move to natural refrigerant systems.

Industry initiatives like the GreenChill program are helping to promote broader use of natural refrigerants. Over the last decade, Emerson has been a leader in the development of natural refrigerant-ready components and systems. That’s why we’re pleased to announce a free GreenChill webinar that will feature two of Emerson’s experts on this topic, Andre Patenaude and John Wallace. Attendees will learn:

  • Characteristics and caveats of using CO2 (R-744), propane (R-290) and ammonia (R-717)
  • Market trends driving the use of natural refrigerants, such as: evolving store formats, corporate sustainability objectives and the dynamic regulatory climate
  • Examples of successful natural refrigerant system installations and trials taking place
  • Details about common natural refrigerant architectures and innovations

Backed by innovations from leading equipment manufacturers, regional governance incentives and federal sustainability programs, the transition to natural refrigerants is more viable today than ever before. We hope you’ll make plans to join Andre and John on Tuesday, July 30 at 2 p.m. EDT / 11 a.m. PDT for this informative free GreenChill webinar.

How to register and attend

To register for this informative free event, please mark your calendar now and then follow these steps on the day of the webinar:

  1. Visit the webinar access page: Making the Transition to an Effective Natural Refrigerant Architecture
  2. If you get a Window Security screen, click “OK”
  3. Select “Enter as a Guest”
  4. Enter your name
  5. Click “Enter Room”
  6. Click “OK”

HVACR Contractors Offer Practical Perspectives on Refrigerant Regulations

BobLabbett_Blog Bob Labbett | V.P. – Aftermarket Distribution, Cold Chain

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

At a recent E360 Breakfast, Emerson hosted a panel of three Atlanta-area HVACR contractors to glean their firsthand insights into the biggest challenges and emerging trends impacting their businesses and customers. A recent article covers a wide range of topics and issues, including this discussion about the impacts of refrigerant regulations on contractors and their customers. You can read the full article here.

The service impacts of refrigerant regulations

Imagine showing up to a job site and not knowing which refrigerant is being used in the refrigeration or AC system. According to Martin Hoover, owner of Empire Heating & Air Conditioning in Atlanta, this has become an all too common scenario. “When pressures aren’t reading true, we have to start from scratch with a total refrigerant evacuation, recovery and recharge before even attempting a diagnosis,” he said. Hoover noted that the transition from legacy refrigerants to today’s lower-GWP options comes at a cost, even for those refrigerants that are considered “drop-in” replacements.

Michael Duffee, owner of Restaurant Equipment Services, Inc. of Tucker, Ga., added that customers are not happy to see recovery and disposal fees tacked onto their bill, and this is putting competitive pressures to use shortcuts on small contracting businesses. “Many companies may not be following proper recovery protocols to win business, which can put companies like ours at a disadvantage,” noted Duffee. “It is obviously counterproductive from an environmental standpoint.”

When asked if customers were even interested in the trend toward using lower-GWP refrigerants, Duffee said that in his experience, cost considerations are his customers’ first priority. Even if their legacy systems are leaking, customers are reluctant to invest in replacement equipment. They may be more open to discussing new refrigerants when that investment eventually becomes inevitable.

Presenting new refrigerants as an opportunity to add value

Jim Wharton, area vice president of Link Network, ABM in Atlanta, serves a much larger enterprise customer base. He said his customers have demonstrated more interest in making these investments, and his company is trying to frame the transition as an opportunity. “It’s challenging to align customers’ goals with the available equipment options, but there are some cases where federal and regional regulations are forcing a change.” Wharton added that change isn’t always good news for customers, but he helps them understand the real values of their investment, including total lifecycle costs, energy efficiency and performance advantages.

Too many options result in too much complexity

All three of the contractors said that refrigerant uncertainty is also adding complexity to the equipment decision-making process. Hoover noted his customers are concerned about the long-term viability of the changes. “The last thing they want after investing in a new system is for it to be phased out in four to five years due to a refrigerant change.” All three contractors agree that the industry would benefit by standardizing. Hoover added, “Preferably, we’d like to see one refrigerant, not five or six different options, to replace the old ones.” He pointed out that many contractors simply aren’t able to carry multiple varieties of refrigerants in their trucks at all times. And since these different refrigerants often have unique performance characteristics, variety only adds complexity to service calls.

At Emerson, we’ve seen the wide range of new refrigerant options as a technical challenge, developing equipment and retrofits to accommodate and optimize their performances. But it’s our interactions with contractors and customers that give us insights into how options ultimately impact end users. Their answers shed much-needed light on potential solutions — such as a press toward a single, standard and regulatory-compliant refrigerant.

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.

Refrigerant Regulations: 2018 Recap and 2019 Impacts

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

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

The year 2018 brought many changes to refrigerant regulations, with additional activity expected in 2019 and beyond. This blog highlights some of the key developments, which were presented in a recent E360 article. Read the full article here.

 

The regulation of refrigerants continues to be a source of great uncertainty in the commercial refrigeration industry. As global, national and state regulations have targeted the phase-down of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants in recent years, some in the industry have begun the transition toward alternative refrigerants with lower global warming potential (GWP). But these environmentally friendly options raise additional questions about performance and safety.

All in all, it’s a complex regulatory mix that got even more complicated in 2018. But we’re here to recap recent events and place them into a larger context.

The status of EPA SNAP Rule 20

In 2017, the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled to vacate the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Significant New Alternative Policy (SNAP) Rule 20. The court ruled that the EPA did not have authority to phase down HFCs under the Clean Air Act (CAA) — which was originally intended to eliminate ozone-depleting substances (ODS) — and thus could no longer enforce its 2015 GWP-based mandates.

In the absence of Rule 20, the commercial refrigeration industry has many questions about what the path toward a more sustainable and environmentally friendly future for refrigerants will look like. Industry calls to overturn the District of Columbia Court of Appeal’s decision were declined by the Supreme Court, which stated it would not hear the HFC case1. Currently, the EPA is drafting new regulations that will clarify its plans to move forward with SNAP. We anticipate details on their position early this year.

EPA rescinds other HFC-related regulations

The EPA has also indicated that it will no longer enforce refrigerant delistings and has proposed to roll back other HFC-related regulations2. In particular, the EPA has proposed excluding HFCs from the leak repair and maintenance requirements for stationary refrigeration equipment, otherwise known as Section 608 of the CAA.

California adopts Rule 20 as the basis for its initiatives

Regulatory uncertainty at the federal level is not preventing states from adopting their own refrigerant regulations and programs. California Senate Bill 1383, aka the Super Pollutant Reduction Act, was passed in 2016 and requires that Californians reduce F-gas emissions (including HFCs) by 40 percent by 20303. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has been tasked with meeting these reductions.

Since 2016, CARB had been using EPA SNAP Rules 20 and 21 as the bases of its HFC phase-down initiatives. Even after SNAP Rule 20 was vacated, CARB moved to adopt compliance dates that were already implemented or upcoming. The passing of California Senate Bill 1013 — aka the California Cooling Act — in Sept. 20184 mandates the full adoption of SNAP Rules 20 and 21 as they read on Jan. 3, 2017. The law is currently in effect and does not require additional CARB rulemaking to uphold compliance dates.

CARB is also proposing an aggressive second phase of rulemaking that would further impact commercial refrigeration and AC applications. CARB has held public workshops and invited industry stakeholders to comment on the details of this proposal.

Meanwhile, many other states have announced their plans to follow California’s lead on HFC phase-downs. The U.S. Climate Alliance, formed in 2017 out of a coalition of 16 states and Puerto Rico, is committed to reducing short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs), including HFCs. Among these alliance states, New York, Maryland, Connecticut and Delaware have announced plans to follow California’s lead on HFC phase-downs.

Refrigerant safety standards and codes under review

Many of the low-GWP, hyrdrofluoroolefin (HFO) refrigerants are classified as A2L, or mildly flammable. R-290 (propane) is also becoming a natural refrigerant option for many low-charge, self-contained applications. Currently, national and global governing agencies are evaluating the standards that establish allowable charge limits and the safe use of these A2L and A3 refrigerants.

Internationally, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) has proposed increasing charge limits for refrigeration systems in IEC60335-2-89 as follows:

  • A2Ls — from 150g to 1.2kg
  • A3s — 500g for factory-sealed systems, and will remain at 150g for split systems

These proposals are still under review and will likely be published sometime in 2019.

Kigali Amendment took effect on Jan. 1

The regulatory uncertainty in the U.S. can sometimes obscure international efforts underway to phase down HFCs. The Montreal Protocol has led the way on this effort for nearly a decade5. In 2016, 197 countries met in Kigali, Rwanda, and agreed on a global HFC phase-down proposal. Known as the Kigali Amendment, this treaty has been ratified by 53 countries (including the E.U.) and took effect on Jan. 1 for participating countries. The U.S. is still considering ratification.

As we move into 2019, there are many moving pieces on the regulatory chess board, but also some encouraging signs of progress. We will be providing the very latest regulatory updates in our next E360 Webinar. Register now to stay informed.

  1. https://www.achrnews.com/articles/140040-supreme-court-declines-to-hear-hfc-case
  2. https://www.epa.gov/section608/revised-section-608-refrigerant-management-regulations
  3. https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201520160SB1383
  4. https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180SB1013
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montreal_Protocol#Hydrochlorofluorocarbons_(HCFCs)_Phase-out_Management_Plan_(HPMP)
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