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Why Contractors Need to Prepare Now for the Coming CO2 Refrigerant Revolution

DonGillis Don Gillis | Technical Training Specialist

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

CO2 is an emerging natural refrigerant alternative, but it poses a sharp learning curve for technicians in the U.S. I recently authored an article in RSES Journal that explains why contractors will need to start enhancing their knowledge and adapting their skillsets now to prepare for future servicing needs. You can read the full article, “Fundamentals of CO2 Refrigeration,” here.

Why Contractors Need to Prepare Now for the Coming CO2 Refrigerant Revolution

Why Contractors Need to Prepare Now for the Coming CO2 Refrigerant Revolution

As the drive to replace hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants with lower-GWP (global warming potential) alternatives heats up, CO2 (or refrigerant R-744) is a proven natural option that is experiencing wider adoption in the U.S. — particularly in large centralized systems.

Natural refrigerants — so named because they occur naturally in the environment — also include both propane and ammonia. But for larger-format supermarket operators seeking an all-natural, environmentally friendly option, CO2 checks all the boxes. It’s nonflammable and nontoxic. It presents no threat to the ozone layer. And it meets every current and known future regulatory requirement. In addition, whereas R-404A has a GWP of 3,922, CO2 has a GWP of 1.

While CO2 refrigeration architectures have been successfully deployed in European commercial and industrial settings for nearly two decades, they are a relative newcomer to the U.S. That’s set to change as more operators face regulatory mandates or have stated sustainability objectives.

This will pose a sharp learning curve for many refrigeration contractors and service technicians, especially those who aren’t familiar with the peculiarities of CO2, or the transcritical CO2 booster architecture they’re most likely to encounter soon.

Understanding CO2’s unique properties

When servicing transcritical CO2 booster systems, technicians will need to account for factors that they have never needed to consider with HFC systems. CO2 has a much lower temperature at atmospheric pressure than HFCs. It also has a higher saturation point, as well as higher operating and standstill pressures. Understanding how these characteristics impact system operation servicing requirements and system performance is essential:

  • Low critical point. CO2’s very low critical point (at 1,056 psig or 87.8 °F) determines its modes of operation; the system will operate in subcritical mode at low ambient temperatures and transcritical mode at higher ambient temperatures.
  • High triple point. At 61 psig, CO2’s triple point — where the refrigerant’s solid, liquid and vapor phases coexist — is very high. If system pressures reach the triple point, the refrigerant will turn to dry ice, which affects system performance and presents a potential safety hazard.
  • Rapid pressure rise. During power outages, CO2 pressures can rise quickly. Pressure-relief valves will release the refrigerant charge when it exceeds acceptable pressures, but this can increase the risk of product loss. To prevent system evacuation, CO2 systems often are designed with an auxiliary cooling system.
  • Vapor to liquid charging. CO2 systems typically use both liquid and vapor to charge, requiring careful coordination to prevent the formation of dry ice.

Transcritical CO2 systems are specifically designed to manage its high pressures and maximize its full potential. Because this system design represents a completely different approach than typical HFC systems, specialized training is required to service these systems and understand their supporting technologies, which typically include high-pressure controllers, electronic expansion valves, pres­sure transducers and temperature sensors.

Finding the right educational resources

Contractors and technicians who want to add CO2 servicing to their qualifications would do well to start educating themselves now. All signs indicate that its adoption in the U.S. will accelerate in the near future. Given CO2’s peculiarities and unique system design strategies, it is imperative that technicians familiarize themselves with the refrigerant and the operation of a CO2 system.

At Emerson, we are leading the industry in CO2 refrigeration system innovation. But we don’t just offer a full suite of CO2 refrigeration system components. We also are dedicated to helping contracting businesses ensure their service technicians understand how to safely install, commission and service these systems. Our Educational Services team offers a comprehensive CO2 training curriculum for contractors seeking to learn more about working with this emerging refrigerant alternative.

 

Refrigerant Regulations Update and Industry Trends

Jennifer_Butsch Jennifer Butsch | Regulatory Affairs Manager

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

In the United States, the regulations governing the use of refrigerants in commercial refrigeration and AC applications remain in a state of flux. Our next E360 Webinar will take place on Tuesday, March 31 at 2 p.m. EDT/11 a.m. PDT and provide an update on the latest regulatory developments at the state and federal levels.

Refrigerant Regulations Update and Industry TrendsThe unpredictable nature of environmental regulations in the U.S. continues to be a source of great uncertainty in today’s commercial refrigeration and AC industries. While many countries around the world are following international guidelines set forth by the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol and the Paris Agreement, the U.S. has rolled back its former federal refrigerant regulations and has yet to participate in these multi-national climate measures.

However, at the state level domestically, things are evolving quickly. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) is moving forward with its stated 2030 deadline of reducing hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) emissions by 40 percent from the state’s 2013 baseline levels. While CARB is currently drafting specific proposals on how to achieve this goal, it’s clear that supermarkets and cold storage operators will soon need to accelerate their transition to new refrigerant alternatives that offer much lower global warming potential (GWP).

California is forging a path to long-term environmental sustainability that many other states are following. Currently, 25 states and provinces have joined the U.S. Climate Alliance — which represents 55 percent of the national population — and committed their leadership on climate change initiatives, including the reduction of HFCs. But with 25 governing bodies working toward similar goals, we’re already seeing the possibility of divergent regulatory approaches that would make it increasingly difficult for our industry to manage.

Meanwhile, both the House of Representatives and the Senate have introduced new bills that would give the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority to regulate HFCs. With this dynamic mix of activities and new developments happening almost every week, it’s becoming more important than ever to stay informed. Our next E360 Webinar is dedicated to making sense of this turbulent regulatory climate and will provide you with guidance on how to prepare for the future.

This timely and informative E360 Webinar will take place on Tuesday, March 31 at 2 p.m. EDT/11 a.m. PDT. It will be hosted by Emerson’s leading experts on refrigerant regulations: Rajan Rajendran, vice president, systems innovation center and sustainability; and Jennifer Butsch, manager, regulatory affairs. Attendees will learn:

  • How CARB is building upon its Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) ruling foundation with newly proposed HFC refrigerant phase-down efforts
  • How some U.S. Climate Alliance states are adopting the EPA’s SNAP Rules 20 and 21 on their own individual timelines
  • Status of the standards governing charge limits and safe use of A2L and A3 refrigerants, including the potential impacts on building codes
  • Availability of new low-GWP refrigerants
  • Update on the new federal HFC regulations introduced by the Senate and the House
  • New and emerging industry trends to watch closely

Register now for this informative and free webinar.

 

E360 Breakfast at AHR: HVACR Refrigerants & Regulations Discussion

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

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Before the doors open at the AHR Expo on February 4, join us at 8 a.m. for an interactive E360 Breakfast discussion on HVACR refrigerants and regulations. You’ll hear about several industry trends to keep your eyes on over the next few years.

E360 Breakfast at AHR: HVACR Refrigerants & Regulations Discussion

Refrigerant regulations are in constant flux, making it extremely difficult to stay current on the latest changes and information. Emerson’s regulation experts, Rajan Rajendran and Jennifer Butsch will highlight some of the latest regulatory updates and refrigerant options to help get you up to speed.

In addition, Emerson’s Ken Monnier will explore several industry trends that could potentially impact you over the next decade.

During this interactive discussion, you’ll have opportunities to ask some of your most pressing questions and share thoughts on measures that attendees might leverage to address today’s challenges.

E360 Breakfast: HVACR Refrigerants & Regulations Discussion

When                                                   Where

Tuesday, February 4                         Orange County Convention Center

8 – 9:30 a.m.                                     Room: W205 (West Concourse), Level II

9800 International Drive

Orlando, FL  32819

Afterward, you’ll be ready to hit the AHR Expo floor. We hope your first stop is the Emerson booth (#2101), where you can take a close look at some of our exciting technologies:

 

  • Copeland™ AWEF compliant condensing units for walk-In coolers and freezers — take energy efficiency regulations out of the equation with condensing units certified to meet AWEF requirements.
  • Copeland Scroll™ Digital Outdoor Refrigeration Unit, X-Line Series learn how precise temperature control and significant energy savings are made possible with latest innovation in variable capacity modulation technology.
  • Copeland™ Modular Indoor Solution — see how our AHR Innovation Award finalist provides an all-in-one micro-distributed solution for food retailers, restaurants and convenience stores with display cases and walk-in boxes.
  • Supervisory Controls — learn why retailers large and small rely on this total-facility platform to monitor, optimize and control their refrigeration systems, HVAC, lighting and more.
  • Connect+ Enterprise Management Software — get an inside look at our newest IoT-enabled software suite designed provide advanced operational efficiencies across a multi-site retail network.

Register now to reserve your seat at this informative, idea-filled E360 Breakfast — a great way to start your day at AHR!

 

10 Takeaways From 10 Years of GreenChill Data

JohnWallace_Blog_Image John Wallace | Director of Innovation, Retail Solutions

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) GreenChill Advanced Refrigeration Partnership recently completed a 10-year study examining supermarket data trends. In our latest E360 Webinar, Tom Land, manager of the program, presented these findings from GreenChill’s unique perceptive. View the webinar in its entirety or read the summary below.

Latest E360 Webinar on Demand

For more than a decade, the GreenChill program has worked with supermarket retailers across the country to promote the use of “greener” refrigeration systems in their stores. While our industry is in the early phases of transitioning to more sustainable refrigeration, GreenChill partner companies are at the forefront of this movement. The number of retailers participating has increased significantly since the program’s inception, and the data Tom discussed at the webinar provides a road map for other companies as they formalize their own sustainability initiatives.

Let’s look at 10 takeaways from the recent webinar.

  1. GreenChill partnership on the rise — in 2007, just more than 4,000 stores were GreenChill partners; today, that number exceeds 11,000 stores.

 

  1. Partner refrigerant emissions remain low — among the growing number of participating GreenChill partner stores, emissions have been held to a minimum. This is in large part due to the program’s emphasis on reducing refrigerant leaks and system charges.

 

  1. Refrigerant charges are declining — the average amount of refrigerants used in participating stores has declined steadily since 2007, even as the number of stores increases.

 

  1. Pounds per store leaks are dropping — in 2007, partner stores emitted more than 390 pounds per store every year; today, 290 pounds is average.

 

  1. Leak rates well below industry averages — on average, GreenChill partners have a leak rate of 13.9 percent, well below the industry average of 25 percent. Twelve of the partners have achieved a leak rate below 10 percent.

 

  1. One-fifth still use R-22 — although R-22 use is on the decline overall, 20 percent of commercial refrigeration systems continue to use it.

 

  1. Low-GWP refrigerants on the uptake — R-407A accounts for 20 percent of partner-installed refrigerants; installations with refrigerants less than 1,420 GWP now account for nearly 3 percent of all partner-installed refrigerants, with R-448A accounting for much of this growth.

 

  1. CO2 installations increase — installations of CO2 secondary loop, cascade and transcritical booster systems among partners continue to rise, with more than 12 partners exceeding a combined total of 160,000 pounds of installed R-744.

 

  1. Growth of GreenChill certifications — in 2009, fewer than 25 stores achieved GreenChill Gold and Silver certifications; today more than 360 stores have achieved Platinum, Gold and Silver certifications and re-certifications.

 

  1. California leads certification — among those states with GreenChill-certified stores, California leads the country with 151 stores. The next closest state is Florida with 45 stores.

Over the past decade, Emerson has worked with a variety of GreenChill partners to meet their sustainability objectives, utilizing leading low-GWP refrigerant alternatives and energy-efficiency strategies. If you’re interested in transitioning to a greener refrigeration system, we’re here to help you develop a strategy that meets your long-term goals.

Smaller Supermarket Formats Dictate Fresh Refrigeration Approaches

JohnWallace_Blog_Image John Wallace | Director of Innovation, Retail Solutions

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Meeting the demands of emergent small-format supermarkets requires a new approach to — or adaption of existing — refrigeration architectures. This blog is based on a recent article that discusses available options. Read the full article here.

One of the biggest trends shaping the food retail industry is the shrinking store footprint. Instead of building large mega centers that once dominated the landscape, today’s retailers are opting to extend their brands into smaller stores, typically in densely populated areas. The small-format trend is part of a larger evolution — one that emphasizes high-quality, fresh, perishable offerings while appealing to consumer desire for more convenience.

Food retailers that are embracing these changes must also evaluate how their approaches to refrigeration architectures and controls will also need to adapt. Fortunately, there is no shortage of available options to help operators make this transition.

Scale down for “centralized” familiarity
A traditional big-box supermarket has more than 100 cases (a mix of medium- and low-temperature cases) supported by centralized refrigeration racks and controls designed to optimize large systems of this type. If you shrink these systems down for smaller formats with less merchandise, it stands to reason that you may not need as many racks. With stores shrinking from more than 100,000 to less than 20,000 square feet, they simply won’t need the same refrigeration horsepower.

In many cases, operators may still want to use centralized architectures for both medium- and low-temperature cases, but appropriately scaled down to suit the small format. Often, we’re able to design a system with one rack to manage medium- and low-temperature needs. Since it’s a much smaller centralized system to support fewer case lineups, it has much shorter refrigeration lines running out to the cases.

From a system controls standpoint, this smaller centralized architecture isn’t drastically different, so retailers can achieve relatively the same look and feel in both large and small store formats — while also providing the flexibility to scale across the full spectrum of store sizes.

Explore “distributed” efficiencies

While distributed refrigeration systems have been preferred in large supermarkets in Europe and other global regions, they are also well-suited for the small-format emergence in the U.S. Distributed architectures come in different formats and offer a cost-effective refrigeration strategy for smaller stores. Preferred distributed architectures include:

  • “Self-contained” cases (i.e., a completely integrated refrigeration system within the case); also provide spot-merchandizing flexibility
  • Modular refrigeration systems capable of supporting small lines of cases sharing similar characteristics

Distributed architectures also have a greater impact on the way controls are set up and utilized. In a distributed scenario, electronic controllers are installed at the refrigeration cases. Additional sensors are typically required to capture data, allow for better control, and support remote troubleshooting activities.

Standardize your footprint

When adding smaller-format stores to an enterprise network, it may not be in your best interest to introduce a completely new refrigeration and controls platform. For retailers with multi-site networks of large- and small-format stores, it’s especially important to select refrigeration architectures and control platforms that provide a standardized view.

When evaluating refrigeration options, look for platforms that support the evolution of internet of things (IoT) in refrigeration and facility management. These systems represent the next generation of operational efficiencies by offering cloud connectivity, predictive maintenance and advanced multi-site management software.

 

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