World leading suppliers and retailers have discussed latest progress in cooling technologies at a key industry event this week, where first-hand experience with CO2 (R744) systems was presented in depth.
The pressure to find safe, workable and economically viable refrigeration solutions is on for supermarkets, restaurant chains, and drinks manufacturers. Meeting at the “RAC Future Proof Cooling” conference in London on 27 March, around 200 manufacturers, end-users, and consultants discussed latest advances in alternative refrigeration technologies and their potential for a future mainstream use. Participants from Coca-Cola, Mc Donalds, Unilever, Asda or Marks & Spencer on the end-user side, and Johnson Controls, Sanyo or the Epta Group from the supply industry.
Austin Davies, Epta Group, highlighted that over the last 12 months environmental issues have moved up to top the agenda of countries which up until now haven’t taken this issue serious enough.
Johnson Controls / Tesco: Alexander Cohr Pachai from Johnson Controls presented a first update on the operation of its large-scale CO2 installation in retailer Tesco’s store in Shrewsbury, UK. So far, the plant, installed in March 2007, has shown high reliability with shorter pull down times than conventional systems, reducing the environmental impact from supermarket refrigeration by 36%. Both capital and servicing costs have been comparable with standard systems.
After initial scepticism from technicians regarding safety issues and the complexity of handling, the plant has proven to be “as good as gold”, as it is simple to service through easily detectable leakages. The cascade system is the world’s largest operating in a supermarket environment. Pachai concluded that “as time goes by we will be working with CO2 just like any other refrigerant”, as training and familiarisation would remove all inititial doubts regarding high pressure and related maintenance.
Coca-Cola: From 2000 on, the beverage giant investigated different ways to reduce the energy consumption from its vending machines by 40-50% by 2010. CO2 Technology was the only solution to fulfill all criteria in terms of energy efficiency, safety, and the potential to serve as a global solution. Coca-Cola has been working with different suppliers, including Sanyo, ACC, Danfoss, Sanden and Embraco to develop a standardized CO2 cassette system. 6,000 R744 beverage coolers will be used during the Olympics in Beijing this summer, and importantly Coca-Cola expects to have a total of 100,000 units installed in the period 2008-2010
Latest results from one of Coca-Cola’s suppliers show that even at 40°C ambient temperature with 75% relative humidity the new CO2 cassette design is 24% more energy-efficient than HFC-134a systems. Compared to the first generation of CO2 vending machines, the new system achieves a 21% reduction in energy use, with further room for improvement through heat exchanger and compressor optimization.
Enviros: Ray Gluckman from the consultancy Enviros talked about the impact of ozone legislation and the F-Gases Regulation affecting the use of fluorinated gases in the refrigeration industry. Although support to the industry to phase out and contain certain refrigerants has been provided by the UK government, Gluckman observed a “poor response” to upcoming deadlines. For example, the ban of R-22 has the potential to create a climate of panic among industry players. The temptation then to opt for a cheap and quick solution to replace ozone-depleting fluids would be higher, thereby missing out on the unique opportunity to take a decisive step change towards natural refrigerants. As progress to implement the F-Gases Regulation has been slow, the review by the European Commission in 2011 will most likely confirm that no visible improvements have been made. This will increase the pressure on industry to phase out HFCs, Gluckman suggested.
Asda: The retail group confirmed that it is focusing on CO2 systems while also looking at other options, such as using secondary refrigerants or hydrocarbons. Current tests in 4 different systems will be finalized in 2009 to influence its final decision for a next-generation refrigerant. Given that Asda is part of the Wal-Mart family, its choice in the UK is likely to influence the decision of Wal-Mart at the global level.
Marks & Spencer: The UK retailer announced that it will be installing 20-25 new CO2 cascade systems. More importantly, the company warned against drop-in solutions that would only push back the phase-out day of chemicals but not prevent their ban in the long run. M & S thus urged a clear and early move away from chemical refrigerants.