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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.

[New E360 Webinar] Future Refrigeration Architectures for Meeting Refrigerant Regulations

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

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Supermarket refrigeration architectures are rapidly evolving in the face of food retail market pressures and a dynamic regulatory environment. In our next E60 Webinar, which will take place on Tuesday, May 5 at 2 p.m. EDT/11 a.m. PDT, we’ll examine the forces behind these changes and explore emerging architectures that utilize alternative refrigerants.

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Throughout the food retail industry, supermarket owners and operators are making the transition to refrigerants with lower global warming potential (GWP). Whether you operate in a state that has a legal mandate or are seeking to meet corporate sustainability objectives, many owners, operators and contractors are exploring their current and future refrigeration options. But selecting an architecture goes well beyond sustainability considerations. Stakeholders also must evaluate a variety of economic and operational factors, including first investment, maintenance requirements and lifecycle costs.

The refrigerant transition also is shifting the way we think about system architectures. To reduce refrigerant leaks and system charges, equipment manufacturers are evaluating a variety of approaches that represent more flexible alternatives to traditional centralized direct expansion systems. In our next E360 Webinar, Future Refrigeration Architectures for Meeting Refrigerant Regulations, I will be joined by Diego Marafon, Emerson’s refrigeration scroll product manager, to discuss some of these emerging options. Join us as we explore the latest decentralized and distributed architectures that utilize low-GWP refrigerants.

Attendees will learn about:

  • How refrigerant regulations are impacting operators by state and region
  • The many factors influencing system selection, from facility size and first cost to serviceability and safety
  • Emerging decentralized and distributed architectures and their wide range of applications
  • How a modular approach to system design enables speed and flexibility

 

Register now for this timely and free webinar.

Supermarket refrigeration architectures are rapidly evolving in the face of food retail market pressures and a dynamic regulatory environment. In our next E60 Webinar, which will take place on Tuesday, May 5 at 2 p.m. EDT/11 a.m. PDT, we’ll examine the forces behind these changes and explore emerging architectures that utilize alternative refrigerants.

Throughout the food retail industry, supermarket owners and operators are making the transition to refrigerants with lower global warming potential (GWP). Whether you operate in a state that has a legal mandate or are seeking to meet corporate sustainability objectives, many owners, operators and contractors are exploring their current and future refrigeration options. But selecting an architecture goes well beyond sustainability considerations. Stakeholders also must evaluate a variety of economic and operational factors, including first investment, maintenance requirements and lifecycle costs.

The refrigerant transition also is shifting the way we think about system architectures. To reduce refrigerant leaks and system charges, equipment manufacturers are evaluating a variety of approaches that represent more flexible alternatives to traditional centralized direct expansion systems. In our next E360 Webinar, Future Refrigeration Architectures for Meeting Refrigerant Regulations, I will be joined by Diego Marafon, Emerson’s refrigeration scroll product manager, to discuss some of these emerging options. Join us as we explore the latest decentralized and distributed architectures that utilize low-GWP refrigerants.

Attendees will learn about:

  • How refrigerant regulations are impacting operators by state and region
  • The many factors influencing system selection, from facility size and first cost to serviceability and safety
  • Emerging decentralized and distributed architectures and their wide range of applications
  • How a modular approach to system design enables speed and flexibility

Register now for this timely and free webinar.

[Webinar Recap] 8 Keys to Understanding the Ongoing Refrigerant Transition

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

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

The transition to more environmentally friendly refrigerants in commercial refrigeration and air conditioning applications is underway all around the globe. In the United States, ever-evolving state and federal regulations are forcing industry stakeholders to pay close attention to the developments taking place in their regions. Regardless of your specific location or operational requirements, the use of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants is being phased down in favor of alternatives with lower global warming potential (GWP).

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I recently co-hosted an E360 Webinar with Jennifer Butsch, Emerson’s regulatory affairs manager of air conditioning, to discuss the latest regulatory developments and industry trends driving this transition. For those who could not attend this informative session, you can view the webinar in its entirety. And if you need a primer for quickly understanding this transition, I developed the following list to highlight the key points of our discussion:

  1. The refrigerant transition is not new — In the 1980s, scientists discovered that chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) and hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) refrigerants — such as R-22 — were contributing to the depletion of the ozone layer. The Montreal Protocol Treaty was enacted in 1987 to ban the use of refrigerants with ozone depletion potential (ODP); since then, the hole in the ozone layer has steadily recovered. But the ban on these refrigerants led to the introduction of HFCs — such as R-404A and R-410A — which were then proven to cause global warming. As a result, the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol was established in 2016 to phase down the use of HFCs; it went into effect in 2019 for its 20 participating member countries.
  2. The transition is a global effort — Even before the Kigali Amendment went into effect, other global regions and countries established their own HFC phase-down regulations. The European Union’s F-Gas regulations, which went into effect in 2014, has led the way on establishing a framework for rulemaking. Environmental Canada enacted its own HFC rulemaking in 2017; many of its requirements went into effect this year.
  3. California takes initiative in the U.S. — In the absence of federal regulations, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has introduced its own HFC phase-down measures, starting with the adoption of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) Rules 20 and 21. In addition, it is currently working with industry associations and stakeholders to develop proposals to achieve additional GWP reductions by 2030. Many in the industry consider CARB’s proposals among the most ambitious in the world.
  4. States are joining the charge — Following California’s lead, many states have also committed to introduce climate change initiatives, including the reduction of HFCs. Currently, 25 members have joined the U.S. Climate Alliance, which now represents more than 55% of the U.S. population and an $11.7 trillion economy. A few member states have also adopted SNAP Rules 20 and 21 into law; however, each of these states has set forth varying implementation timelines, which will only add complexity to the national regulatory landscape.
  5. New federal regulations are on the horizon — To restore federal guidance pertaining to HFC phase-down regulations, both the Senate and the House have recently introduced new bills, respectively: The American Innovation and Manufacturing Act of 2019, and the American Innovation and Manufacturing Leadership Act of 2020. Both bills align with the HFC reduction goals established in the Kigali Amendment and would authorize the EPA to once again regulate HFCs and establish standards for HFC
    management (servicing, repair, recovery, recycle, reclaim, etc.). The general consensus throughout the industry is that a standardized federal approach would minimize compliance complexities created by a potential patchwork of state regulations.
  6. The next generation of refrigerants is already here — Many low-GWP alternative refrigerants not only have been developed already, they are being designed to replace HFCs commonly used in specific applications today. These refrigerants offer varying GWP ranges and cover the spectrum of refrigerant safety classifications, from A1 (non-flammable) to A2L (mildly flammable) to A3 (highly flammable) and B2L (toxic, mildly flammable). It’s important to point out that many of the lowest-GWP alternatives are classified as A2L, and thus will require equipment and facility redesigns to meet application and safety standards.
  7. Safety standards and codes are evolving — With the industry moving toward the use of flammable refrigerants, the technical committees and governing bodies who provide guidelines on how to safely use these refrigerants are actively updating safety standards. While these activities are ongoing, it’s important to remember that once established, these standards will take several years to make their way into both model and local codes needed to permit the widespread use of flammable refrigerants. The industry still has more work to do before that becomes a reality.
  8. System architectures are changing — This transition is ushering in a new era of system architectures. To utilize low-GWP refrigerants, reduce refrigerant charges and the potential for leaks, look for the commercial refrigeration industry to shift from traditional centralized systems toward more distributed approaches. Natural refrigerant architectures — such as CO2 transcritical booster and R-290 integrated cases — will also continue to expand. Manufacturers are utilizing familiar booster technologies and components to help end users transition to lower-GWP A1s today and even lower-GWP A2Ls in the future. In trials, these systems have provided significant energy savings with reduced installation costs and refrigerant charges.

To learn more details about any of these points, please view this informative webinar in its entirety.

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.

 

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