'Transcritical the thing we want to shoot for" - Interview with Harrison Horning

By Janaina Topley Lira, Jul 25, 2012, 10:42 6 minute reading

The Delhaize Group is committed to significantly reducing refrigerant emissions, investing in low GWP CO2 refrigeration in its stores in Belgium, Greece and the US, where the Food Lion store in Conyers, Georgia, earned a Gold certification from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s GreenChill Advanced Refrigeration Partnership for its cascade CO2 system. To find out more R744.com spoke

R744.com: Delhaize has installed CO2 refrigeration in stores across the Group. What are the future plans regarding the roll-out of CO2?
HH: There are three CO2 secondary or cascade systems in Food Lion’s stores now. The next CO2 system in the US will be a transcritical system, which we are are planning to open in 2013 in Maine, which has a cold climate. On paper it looks great.
R744: Are you planning to continue the rollout of the CO2 cascade systems?
HH: No, those were pilots and there are no plans to do any more of those right now in the US. My feeling is that in cold climates, once we put in this first pilot transcritical system that will prove the concept, then we’ll be able to make that our standard for all new Hannaford stores in that region. Once we have a new store standard I think we can start applying it on remodels, especially where the remodels are extensive.
R744: What about in warmer climates?
HH: Well, I am hoping that the suppliers and others are feverishly designing new technologies that will work and that will be economic in warmer climates. We saw the map from Hill PHOENIX that shows the climate zones where it works, where it saves money where it breaks even and where it loses money. And that line we think is going to be pushed further south with new developments in technology and hopefully those are going to happen real soon. I am counting on that. We are not planning to invest in things that are going to lose money, that’s a hard sell, but once we can break even or make money in those warmer climates, I will be there saying “This looks good, let’s move this ahead.”
R744.com: Is there anything you think retailers can do to increase demand for natural refrigerant systems?
I have some very, very recent data from the text polling that was going on minutes ago (at ATMOsphere America 2012) that says the biggest problem is the lack of data and information. So what we can do is to continue to share our experiences and best practices in forums like this. What I would expect in the next year or two is that this will no longer be the number one barrier. Lots of people were surprised that cost was not the number one barrier today. This shows we need information, data that shows: how these things really work, what does it really cost, what are the issues, and so on and so forth. So I think retailers need to be testing CO2, piloting it and learning from it, and bringing that information back to share with others.
R744.com: What sort of data do you have from your use of CO2 so far?
HH: I am looking at transcritical as really the thing we want to shoot for and we don’t have any data on that yet. We are only in the design phase, we’ve learned a lot already and it all looks pretty good. Maybe there are a few things that are still of concern, but overall it looks very good. A year from now I’ll be able to tell you that I have some real data on that. I think, quite honestly that’s where the focus will be, on the transcritical, meaning all natural, no HFCs. For the Consumer Goods Forum, that’s where we’re aiming. I think it makes sense for everybody to aim there. I personally think we’ll see transcritical grow and CO2 secondary/cascade shrink.
R744: What are you doing to address the training issue?
HH: Hannaford is in a little bit of a unique situation, in that they have an in-house construction crew who do the piping and an in-house service crew who operate the system. These are good technicians that work for our company directly and therefore we are responsible for their training. I’ve been persuaded today to squirrel away some budget for training to make sure that we are adequately trained and I expect we’re going to lean heavily on the suppliers. They’ve offered the service for our pilot project. They’ve offered to have our guys come and watch them do a start-up on one of the Canadian systems, and that is a great opportunity for us to observe and learn. With the talented people that we have and the training we get from the suppliers I don’t think we’ll need a lot more investment in training, but I know that training is important. What I’m learning here today is that we don’t want to ignore it, so we’ll put some budget away just in case.
R744: Where do you see the US CO2 refrigeration market going from here?
HH: Scott Martin alluded to the meeting in Europe six years ago where people said “give me a refrigerant that I don’t have to keep changing”. That meeting was held at Delhaize Group in Brussels, it was hosted by our parent company, - very pioneering people, and I was there with Scott and I think that is where we want to get to. 
The message is pretty clear, with carbon accounting the GWP numbers can change. The scientists recalculate them and they often go up. But guess what, the GWP of CO2 won’t change in our lifetime, it will always be one. Let’s get to that point and then we’ll be done.
R744.com: How do you communicate your sustainability efforts regarding reducing refrigerant emissions to your customers? Do you plan to do more?
HH: They don’t rely on me for that. They have communication professionals. We have a sustainability team, a chief sustainability officer and a whole organisation around that. Since 2008 we’ve been publishing a corporate responsibility report (now it’s called sustainability report) for Delhaize Group and that’s where we talk about what we’re doing.I It’s done in a way that is understandable for a general reader, it’s not a technical thing. We report to carbon disclosure project as well in Belgium for the entire Delhaize Group.
R744.com: How involved have you been on the regulation side in terms of pushing for CO2 transcritical to be approved?
HH: I have not been directly involved, I am assuming that it will all get worked out. I don’t think it would stop us from proceeding.

R744.com: What sort of return on investment are you looking for when you invest in a refrigeration system?
HH: Well, we have as a company historically taken a lifecycle cost approach and so we look at net present value; economic calculations over the life of the system. If we have positive value, that’s what we’re looking for.

Thank you very much!


By Janaina Topley Lira

Jul 25, 2012, 10:42

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