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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.

Supermarket Food Safety: Emerson Cold Chain Solutions

Katrina Krites | Marketing and Business Development

Manager, Food Retail

Emerson’s Commercial and Residential Solutions Business

Providing consistently safe and high-quality food in supermarkets is important to each stakeholder in the food retail supply chain. From farm to fork, grocers depend on their cold chain suppliers to collect, share and report on the handling and shipping practices that contribute to food safety. In the first blog based on an article in PerishableNews.com, we examined food retail market trends and risk factors impacting food safety and quality. In this companion blog, we will explore how Emerson is helping food retailers and stakeholders address these challenges at nearly every step of the food supply chain.

Harvest and processing

The potential decay of perishable produce starts the moment it is picked, but this can be stunted by controlling temperatures and the ambient environment via: flash cooling/freezing; temporary staging in storage coolers; and pre-cooling shipping containers. Shipping containers may be modified with ripening agents, and processors often measure the levels of ethylene, a natural gas that can accelerate ripening.

Emerson provides temperature-probing devices that can be used to measure internal “pulp” temperatures prior to and during the staging and loading processes. Our real-time temperature monitoring and tracking devices can be activated inside a shipping container to immediately begin monitoring location, temperatures and other environmental conditions of in-transit perishable shipments.

Transportation

Food’s journey to supermarket shelves can last anywhere from days to weeks — by truck, sea and/or air — and grocers rely on their shippers to provide an unbroken chain of temperature certainty. Loading best practices promote airflow and shipments to be “load locked” in order to limit excess vibration. Transport containers must be able to maintain temperatures and provide visibility into container conditions. Mixed-load cargos may have different refrigerated temperature zones within the same shipment.

Emerson’s field-tested, proven compression technologies can withstand the rigors of the road while helping operators to ensure that their transport refrigeration systems preserve product at specified temperature ranges. Temperature monitoring, logging and tracking devices — combined with our cloud-based software portal — can provide real-time temperature and location conditions of product in-transit. The software enables live remote monitoring and issues alerts to stakeholders based on user-defined parameters, such as: temperature excursions; changes to shipping atmosphere; vibration; security breaches; and shipping delays.

Cold storage distribution centers

Upon receipt of food at a cold storage facility, handlers must inspect product temperatures and conditions, including pulp temperatures with probing devices, and trip data from logging and tracking devices. Relying on only the ambient air temperature of the shipping container is not an accurate measure, as some carriers may turn off the refrigeration system during shipping to preserve fuel. After inspection, handlers must promptly transfer perishable cargo into a designated cold storage temperature zone. The entire process must adhere to each facility’s established Hazardous Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) and/or Hazard Analysis and Risk-based Preventative Controls (HARPC) plans.

Emerson’s logging and tracking devices give end-users the ability to maintain live, remote visibility for monitoring the temperatures and locations of their in-transit shipping containers. In cold storage facilities, our compression and refrigeration technologies help operators to establish and maintain proper temperatures in various cold storage zones. Robust facility monitoring solutions help operators to remotely oversee conditions, ensure proper temperatures, and automatically record temperatures for use in HACCP reporting.

Grocery stores

From the moments perishable shipments are unloaded in supermarkets, operators take ownership of food quality and safety. This starts with inspection — checking pulp temperatures and trip data logs — and continues with the prompt transfer of perishables into designated cold storage coolers or freezers. Once in cold storage, control platforms help retailers to monitor perishable temperatures and optimize food quality.

Refrigerated storage and staging coolers for click-and-collect fulfillment must have sufficient capacity to handle fluctuations in order volumes and frequent opening/closing of walk-in doors. Order-picking processes and customer pick-ups and deliveries must be optimized to ensure safe handling and proper temperatures. Supermarket food preparation introduces hot-side complexities as consumers look to grocers for home meal replacements. Staff must be trained in safe cooking best practices — such as those provided by the U.S. National Restaurant Association’s (NRA’s) ServSafe® certification course — and cook-and-hold procedures should also follow established HACCP/HARPC plans.

In addition to our proven compression and refrigeration technologies, Emerson solutions address a variety of modern supermarket requirements. These include condensing units with variable-capacity modulation to precisely match refrigeration load requirements and flexible distributed architectures that can augment existing refrigeration systems. We also offer a suite of temperature-probing devices to help grocers automate the recording of prepared food temperatures and assist grocers with food safety and process compliance concerns.

Our powerful facility management, monitoring and control platforms address both existing and emerging food retail complexities. These tools provide near real-time access to critical information to help retailers track, triage and respond to issues pertaining to food quality and safety compliance — in individual stores and across their multi-site networks. In addition, these control platforms utilize alarms, notifications and remote access to provide end-users with continuous building and refrigeration monitoring at any retail location.

Connectivity drives cold chain visibility

Modern food retailers are held to increasingly higher food safety and quality standards. Store operators, consumers and health inspectors all demand greater transparency into the food supply chain and improved visibility of food’s journey from farm to fork. With today’s connected internet of things (IoT) monitoring and tracking infrastructures, operators now have the potential for visibility into each step of food’s journey — and even the possibility for comprehensive cold chain traceability. Emerson provides the refrigeration technologies and IoT-enabled infrastructures to help stakeholders at each point monitor, control and track a variety of conditions necessary for preserving food safety and quality.

 

 

 

 

 

Supermarket Food Safety: Trends and Risk Factors

Katrina Krites | Marketing and Business Development

Manager, Food Retail

Emerson’s Commercial and Residential Solutions Business

Ensuring food safety throughout the food retail supply chain has taken on new importance in 2020. As COVID-19 pushed many grocery shoppers online and reshaped consumer buying habits, grocers had to quickly adapt to new demands without compromising food safety and quality. In a recent article in PerishableNews.com, we explore the impacts of these rapidly changing market dynamics and discuss Emerson’s commitment to helping retailers and supply chain stakeholders preserve food quality and safety. In the first of a two-blog series, we will examine the evolving food retail landscape and explore food safety best practices at various steps along food’s cold chain journey.

With the onset of the global health crisis, retailers were suddenly inundated with click-and-collect orders and home deliveries. This unexpected high order volume not only placed pressures on e-fulfillment infrastructures, but also required renewed adherence to food safety best practices. Grocers not only had to maintain proper temperature ranges during storage, picking, staging and delivery, but also follow proper sanitation and hygiene protocols for in-store customers and employees alike.

At the same time, grocers began playing an even larger foodservice role by providing ready-to-eat, home meal replacements while still supporting deli- and freshly prepared offerings. Combined, these new challenges only highlighted pre-existing supply chain concerns and underscored the importance of maintaining food safety at every point of its journey to consumers. Consider the dynamic mix of food retail market and consumer trends impacting supermarket food safety in 2020:

Understanding food safety risk factors

Food safety is a cumulative process involving multiple stakeholders. From harvest to production, shipping and cold storage, order fulfillment and delivery, food preparation and handling, grocery retailers rely on food safety best practices across a wide range of disciplines.

Food shipments can proceed through up to 30 individual steps and have multiple changes of ownership, custody and control before they reach supermarkets. Once there, this chain of custody now includes the complexities of click-and-collect fulfillment — from picking processes and staging through customer pick-up. Throughout these processes, multiple factors can either decrease perishable food’s shelf life or increase its risk of becoming unsafe and a potential cause of foodborne illness.

An unbroken chain of temperature certainty and safe handling practices is essential for maintaining food safety. Common risk factors include:

  • Safe handling practices must guard against the spread of bacterial pathogens that can cause food poisoning, such as E. coli and listeria. Cross-contamination, poor employee hygiene, and unsafe or unsanitary processing or food preparation methods are key contributors.
  • Produce and perishable commodities must be kept within optimal temperatures to prevent the growth of bacteria, maximize freshness and shelf life, and avoid food waste and shrink. Environmental conditions within shipping containers must be monitored and managed throughout food’s journey to optimize humidity, ripening agents, security and real-time location tracking.
  • Online order fulfillment presents new challenges for maintaining temperature control. Chilled perishables and frozen goods must be kept within optimal temperature ranges, which can impact in-store picking processes and order staging prior to customer pick-up. Fluctuations in demand can also affect walk-in cooler performance due to changes in employee foot traffic and increased unit access.
  • Cook-and-hold procedures must maintain food at optimal holding temperatures. Per the U.S. National Restaurant Association’s (NRA’s) ServSafe® guidelines, this requires frequent checking and documentation of internal food temperatures to ensure food quality and safety.

Part two of this blog series will explore Emerson refrigeration and temperature monitoring solutions for helping ensure food safety throughout the cold chain and in supermarkets.

Preparing for the Future of Alternative Refrigerants

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

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

 

Regulations governing the use of refrigerants in commercial refrigeration remain in a state of flux. While the United States currently lacks a federal mandate for phasing down hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) emissions, many states are already vowing to adopt their own HFC phase-down initiatives. In a new article in RSES Journal, I highlight several proven sustainable refrigeration strategies that operators should begin evaluating now as they prepare for a future that will be fueled by systems that utilize refrigerants with lower global warming potential (GWP). Read the article here.

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It’s clear that the future favors more environmentally friendly refrigeration systems. But the lower-GWP refrigerants and emerging architectures that comprise these systems are up for debate in the United States, where state-led efforts to curb climate change could result in a patchwork of environmental regulations.

The good news for owners and operators is that, even absent federal guidance, component manufacturers, OEMs, contractors and end users are leading the charge. For more than a decade, industry stakeholders have been developing and fine-tuning lower-GWP refrigerants and corresponding technologies to satisfy a range of applications, store formats and corporate sustainability goals.

The resulting proliferation of sustainable refrigeration systems is providing operators with more options than ever before. But as the one-size-fits-all solutions of the past give way to a broader array of strategies, operators need to become experts on alternative refrigerant technologies and architectures — all while trying to predict where future environmental regulations will land. While this may sound like a daunting task, it can be made easier by building a baseline understanding of current and emerging systems.

An expanding set of sustainable refrigeration strategies

Whether motivated by potential regulatory changes or corporate sustainability goals (or both), operators have no shortage of lower-GWP refrigerant systems from which to choose. Proven, viable alternatives to HFC-based systems already on the market include:

  • Lower-GWP A1s (HFO/HFC blends): By blending hyrdrofluoroolefins (HFOs) with HFCs, refrigerant manufacturers have created a new generation of lower-GWP A1 alternatives. These refrigerants do not satisfy the very low-GWP levels of many global HFC regulations, but they do allow for a gradual transition to lower-GWP refrigerants. Refrigeration architectures that use A1 refrigerants include macro-distributed (large) integrated cases, micro-booster (distributed) and small-charge distributed cases.
  • A2L HFO blends: New synthetic HFO blends offer widespread applicability within commercial refrigeration for operators seeking lower-GWP alternatives. U.S. safety codes and standards are still catching up to their use, but many operators anticipate A2L blends will emerge within the next several years. Both macro-distributed and micro-booster architectures that use A1 refrigerants can be used with some A2L blends, enabling operators to maximize their investment as they adopt lower-GWP alternatives.
  • Propane (R-290): This natural refrigerant is energy-efficient and has a very low GWP of 3. Because it’s classified as an A3 (flammable) refrigerant, U.S. building codes currently limit its use to small-charge applications — and that may require more compressors than other approaches. R-290 can be paired with micro-distributed, R-290 integrated cases, which allow for flexibility in store layouts and use 90% less refrigerant than centralized systems.
  • CO2 (R-744): A proven alternative in European and North American applications, CO2 is nonflammable and nontoxic. It also has a GWP of 1, meaning it satisfies current and potential future regulatory requirements. It can be used with CO2 transcritical booster systems — where CO2 provides both low- and medium-temperature cooling — and CO2 sub-critical (cascade) architectures that utilize an HFC or HFC/HFO blend on the medium-temperature side of the system. Both systems are particularly beneficial for large-format supermarkets where a centralized architecture is preferred. However, due to their higher pressures, these systems require access to a trained, skilled workforce for service and maintenance.

Staying ahead of the curve

Emerson is at the forefront of engineering a future that supports the entire spectrum of refrigeration strategies. We’ve been partnering with equipment manufacturers and end users alike to develop future-ready, low-GWP refrigerant technologies to support operators at every stage of their transition to a lower carbon footprint.

From our wide range of energy-efficient compressors, flow controls and smart electronics to fully integrated solutions, we’re providing our customers with the ability to implement sustainable refrigeration strategies that support their unique facility requirements, business objectives and regulatory requirements.

[Webinar Recap] Preparing for the Future of Refrigeration

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

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Commercial refrigeration architectures are changing. Environmental regulations and corporate sustainability objectives are driving the need for next-generation refrigeration technologies. Today, most commercial refrigeration end users are still operating legacy, centralized direct-expansion (DX) rack systems — which contain refrigerants that either have high global warming potential (GWP) or ozone depletion potential (ODP). In our most recent E360 Webinar, Diego Marafon, refrigeration scroll product manager at Emerson, and I discussed new refrigeration architectures that utilize eco-friendly refrigerants.

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In many countries, regions and U.S. states, the transition from high-GWP refrigerants is underway. While legacy refrigerant options such as hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) R-404A are being phased down, hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) such as R-22 are being phased out. To meet sustainability targets, future refrigeration options will utilize a variety of emerging lower-GWP refrigerants, including A1s, A2Ls and natural options such as CO2 and propane.

End users must evaluate a wide range of operational, maintenance and economic criteria when selecting an alternative refrigerant or future refrigeration architecture. Based on Emerson-sponsored research on commercial refrigeration end users, we’ve classified these criteria into six categories called the Six S’s: simple to operate and maintain; environmentally and economically sustainable; stable, reliable performance; secure in terms of both technology and safety perspectives; serviceable without requiring specialized skills or training; and equipped with smart technologies for internet of things (IoT) communication. The levels of importance that each end user places on these factors will determine their selection criteria and the types of systems that meet their business objectives.

Emerging architectures and technologies

Aside from CO2 systems, which have been in use for more than a decade, many of the emerging technologies take a decentralized or distributed approach to system architectures. Overall, this strategy moves the refrigeration equipment closer to the refrigerated cases, requires much less refrigerant charge (and piping), and offers a higher degree of flexibility over centralized DX systems. Here is a brief description of some of the decentralized or distributed architectures we reviewed in the webinar:

Low-charge small scroll racks — These systems have been in place for more than 20 years due to their equipment placement flexibility. Multiple-rack units can be placed in proximity to refrigerated loads, allowing suction pressures to be optimized and drive energy efficiencies. Refrigerant charges are smaller, so leaks can be contained to each rack’s individual circuit. They are capable of using multiple refrigerants with varying lower-GWP ratings.

Outdoor condensing units (OCUs) — This well-known approach has been proven for decades and is evolving to meet modern refrigeration needs. OCUs have traditionally been used for smaller refrigeration loads — one unit per load — and many retailers use multiple OCUs to cover individual loads throughout a store. Lower-GWP A1 refrigerants such as R-448/9A can be used for low-temperature applications; low- or medium-pressure refrigerants can be used for medium-temperature applications.

Variable-capacity OCUs — Digital compressors which provide variable-capacity modulation are now being used in OCUs to service multiple refrigeration loads per store. This added range of capacity greatly expands upon traditional remodel and rebuild options — in convenience stores, restaurants, small supermarkets, and click-and-collect operations — and offers the ability to replace three separate condensing units with one. Locating these OCUs in proximity to the refrigerated loads helps keep charge low, allowing them to meet even the most stringent environmental regulations. Variable-capacity modulation enables precise temperature control and excellent load matching capabilities for maximum energy efficiencies. See the Copeland™ Digital Outdoor Refrigeration Unit, X-Line Series for more information.

Distributed micro-booster — This hybrid indoor/outdoor architecture utilizes proven booster technology — typically found in CO2 systems, however new innovative concepts permit the use of low GWP, low-pressure A1 refrigerants for both low- and medium-temperature loads while offering a familiar operation and maintenance footprint. The system utilizes outdoor condensing units for medium-temperature coolers and low-temperature compressors which are located directly on or above the frozen cases. Low-temperature compressors discharge into the nearest medium-temperature suction group, thereby eliminating the need to discharge all the way out to a remote condenser. This allows refrigerant charges and pressures to stay very low, while utilizing one low-GWP A1 refrigerant such as R-513A. Emerson has tested these systems in multiple locations and configurations, where they deliver exceptional performance and energy efficiencies.

Indoor distributed architecture — This flexible configuration utilizes self-contained condensing units located on or near refrigerated cases, islands or prep tables — with refrigerant options, including low-GWP A1s and R-290 (subject to allowable charge limits). Stores with multiple cases can be connected via a shared water or glycol loop to extract heat from each unit and divert it to a remote condenser/cooler. The inherent modular nature of this architecture limits leak rates and keeps charges very low while enabling a very simple, reliable and scalable operational footprint. See the award-winning Copeland Indoor Modular Solution for an end-to-end modular capability that provides seamless integration of refrigeration equipment with Emerson facility controls.

For more detailed information on any of these refrigeration architectures or their enabling technologies, view this webinar in its entirety.

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