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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.

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.

 

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.

 

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”

Emerson Supports and Sponsors “World Refrigeration Day”

Emerson will be a sponsor of the first annual World Refrigeration Day on June 26 which will be celebrated on the 195th birthday of refrigeration pioneer Lord Kelvin and raise awareness and understanding of the significant role that refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pump (RACHP) technology plays in modern living

World Refrigeration Day

ASHRAE, UN Environment OzonAction and WRD Secretariat are organizing an international Webinar on the 26th June at 9 a.m. EDT titled “ Refrigerants for Life: How Refrigerants Affect Modern Life”. The event will feature RACHP and HVACR organizations and professionals from around the globe, including: the U.S., India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, Australia, Africa, and Europe. Representatives from these countries, regions, and organizations have pledged their interest and support for the establishment of World Refrigeration Day and will participate in a variety of activities.

Emerson’s vice president, system innovation center and sustainability, Rajan Rajendran, who is also the 2019-2020 Chair of ASHRAE Refrigeration Committee will participate in the webinar as Keynote Speaker to present the Responsible Use of Refrigerants and cover the following topics:

  • The complexity of choosing a refrigerant for HVACR applications
  • Considerations such as global warming potential (GWP), ozone depletion potential (ODP) and lifecycle climate performance (LCCP)
  • The environmental characteristics of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)
  • The growing trend toward the use of environmentally friendly refrigerant alternatives
  • A review of natural and synthetic refrigerants that offer lower LCCP

He will also discuss how the selection of refrigerants and their systems must be based on a holistic analysis that encompasses a variety of criteria, including: energy efficiency and performance attributes, environmental impacts, employee and public safety, and economic considerations. This event will also provide an opportunity for the refrigeration and air conditioning industries to continue a dialogue and address the many challenges we are facing, such as:

  • Rapidly evolving environmental standards
  • Global warming
  • The growing ubiquity of digital technologies
  • Food safety concerns
  • Never-ending energy and operating cost concerns

Emerson is pleased to participate in World Refrigeration Day and promote the roles that refrigeration, air conditioning, and heat pump technologies and applications have in today’s world.

You can register for the Wednesday, June 26 “Refrigerants for Life: How Refrigerants Affect Modern Life” webinar, here.

 

 

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