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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.

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.

California HFC Phase-down Schedule Continues

Jennifer_Butsch Jennifer Butsch | Regulatory Affairs Manager

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

The state of California and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) have taken steps to phase down hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) beginning in 2019. I recently presented this topic during Emerson’s January E360 Breakfast at the AHR Expo where I spoke about this and how it may influence refrigerant regulations in other states. Read Accelerate America’s article, “California Starts HFC Bans — with More to Come.”

As we had discussed in late 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indicated that in the wake of the vacating of SNAP Rule 20, it will no longer enforce HFC refrigerant delistings and has proposed to roll back further HFC-related regulations. This decision has a left a void in the regulatory landscape — one in which California and other U.S. Climate Alliance member states are vowing to fill.

In particular, many are looking to California to lead industry efforts on reducing high-GWP HFC refrigerants in commercial, industrial and residential refrigeration and AC applications. With the adoption of SNAP Rules 20 and 21 into state law, California appears to be embracing this role. As of Jan. 1, R-404A and R-507A are no longer permitted in new and retrofit supermarket central systems, remote condensing units, and low- and medium-temperature retrofit stand-alone units — all of which can be legally enforced in California under the authority of the California Cooling Act (Senate Bill 1013).

January 1 also marked the onset of bans for R-404A, R-507A, R-410A, R-134 and R-407A/C/F in new medium-temperature, stand-alone units with a compressor capacity of less than 2,200 BTU/hr and not containing a flooded evaporator. These actions mirror the now vacated EPA SNAP rules and are all part of an HFC phase-down schedule that will continue in California in the coming years.

The California Cooling Act also prohibits manufacturers from selling equipment or products that use banned HFCs manufactured after their respective prohibition dates. It’s important to understand this phase-down in the context of even larger and more ambitious state-wide environmental initiatives.

The California Air Resources Board plans to enact further restrictions on HFCs via its SLCP (Short-Lived Climate Pollutant) strategy, which was approved in March 2017. These actions are all intended to help California reduce HFC emissions 40 percent below the levels it recorded in 2013 by 2030, as stated in Senate Bill 1383 (aka the Super Pollutant Reduction Act).

CARB’s SLCP strategy is based on a multipronged approach in which they have proposed:

  • Limiting the GWP of refrigerants used in new stationary air-conditioning equipment to below 750 starting in 2023
  • Imposing prohibitions on refrigerants (more than 50 pounds) with a GWP of more than 150 for new stationary refrigeration beginning in 2022
  • Calling for a blanket ban on all production, import, sales, distribution or entry into commerce of refrigerants with a GWP of 1,500 or more, effective in 2022, with possible exemptions for R-410A for use in AC and reclaimed refrigerant.

We anticipate CARB to announce a final regulation on these SLCP initiatives in December for AC and March 2020 for commercial refrigeration. In the meantime, we encourage stakeholders to engage CARB in one of the many public meetings they’re planning throughout 2019.

As other states watch closely to see how California’s pending environmental regulations take shape, we believe it’s important that our industry continues to push for consistency in our approaches. Dealing with state-by-state mandates on what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable would only introduce unnecessary complexity. To see my comments on this matter, please read the full article here.

 

California’s HFC Phase-down: Costs, Energy, Leaks and Incentives

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

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

As Jennifer Butsch and I discussed in our most recent E360 Webinar, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has adopted the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) regulations 20 and 21. ACHR NEWS, which attended our webinar and CARB’s most recent public stakeholder meeting, has compiled a report on the implications of CARB’s hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) phase-down efforts. Below is a synopsis of their article, which you can read here in its entirety.

California’s HFC Phase-down: Costs, Energy, Leaks and Incentives

In early March, CARB held its first of several public technical working group meetings of the year. While the focus of this workshop was on stationary AC equipment, the scope of the issues discussed also extended to matters impacting commercial refrigeration. The purpose of these meetings is to gain insights into the many questions surrounding the implementation of its current and future regulations governing the state’s HFC phase-down. In this session, CARB posed several questions related to equipment costs, refrigerant leaks, the intersection with energy efficiency regulations and incentives for making the transition to lower-GWP refrigerants. And while these questions were targeted to California stakeholders, their relevance extends to the larger United States, where it is estimated that a federal mechanism to phase down HFCs will eventually be reinstated.

First costs, installation and maintenance

As we discussed in our most recent webinar, the commercial refrigeration sector is where the industry will continue to experience a proliferation of refrigeration systems. But this presents a series of challenges for OEMs and component manufacturers as we attempt to balance refrigerant GWP limits with economic viability — with hopes to minimize first costs, install costs and long-term service expenses of new equipment.

Opinions about cost considerations varied at the CARB meeting, though attendees generally agreed that first costs on AC equipment could range from 5 to 15 percent in various categories of equipment. CARB estimated that install and maintenance costs could increase anywhere from 5 to 10 percent, especially considering the need for additional contractor and technician training and tools to work with lower-GWP refrigerants such as A2Ls.

Factoring energy into the equation

For OEMs, meeting CARB’s GWP limits is only one of the regulatory milestones they will face in the next few years. The Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) new energy efficiency requirements are scheduled for 2023, which means OEMs need to factor both energy-related equipment upgrades and the refrigerant transition into their design cycles. This was another topic of debate at the CARB meeting.

CARB members suggested that OEMs could try to offset upgrade expenses and achieve economies of scale by combining design cycles. Representatives from the Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) took the position that these upgrades would require separate efforts. To help CARB understand the implications of these scenarios, AHRI cited survey data in which its members considered the costs of efficiency upgrades before addressing required refrigeration changes.

Leak reduction and prevention

Meeting attendees reached a consensus when discussing the problem of refrigerant leaks. As an AHRI representative pointed out: none of California’s GWP targets will be attainable if the industry can’t figure out this critical issue. They cited a UN Environmental Program report that estimated up to 60 percent of GWP sources from HVACR equipment can be traced to leaks.

And as we reported in our recent webinar, supermarkets that in the EPA’s GreenChill program have achieved drastically reduced leak rates, sometimes more than 50 percent. It’s also a reminder that as California and the rest of country continue their transitions to lower-GWP refrigerant alternatives, proper reclamation, recycling and disposal of HFCs will be extremely important.

Incentivizing participation

When the California Senate Bill No. 1013 (aka the California Cooling Act) was passed in 2018, it included an incentive mechanism via the Fluorinated Gases Emission Reduction Incentive Program. To date, this program has remained unfunded in the 2019 budget, although there still is yet a possibility for budget adjustments this year.

As was noted in the article, California’s tradition of incentives has helped create momentum to move the state toward lower-GWP refrigerants, systems with lower leak rates and better recordkeeping. Regardless, early adopters of climate-friendly cooling will have a variety of options from which to choose for new low-GWP systems, retrofits and upgrades.

What’s next?

CARB has stated that it will hold further stakeholder meetings this year, including a workshop focused on commercial refrigeration at the end of May. These meetings will conclude with a draft of the proposed new rulemaking along with continued economic analysis. As the industry awaits an update from the EPA on HFC-related regulations, California continues to be the country’s torchbearer for low-GWP refrigeration and cooling systems. As I was quoted in the article, our industry still has a lot of learning to do in the next four or five years, as the refrigerant transition will continue to drive equipment changes.

 

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