BITZER interview: “The industry needs a clear political framework”

By team, Nov 25, 2008, 10:35 5 minute reading

A clear, uniform and long-term policy framework in Europe and beyond, is what the industry needs to develop natural refrigerants, says compressor manufacturer Bitzer. At Chillventa, talked to Oliver Javerschek, Application Engineer, and Michael Hendriks, Manager for Public Relations, from BITZER Germany about future prospects for CO2, market barriers, the worldwide financial crisis, and new chemical refrigerants. How has been interest from visitors at Chillventa so far? Have you noticed a difference compared to previous years?

Hendriks: Years ago questions on CO2 compressors and technology were often very basic. This is long gone. New customers do approach us with qualified questions about compressors and system solutions. Which are the main markets for BITZER?

Javerschek: Above all supermarket applications in countries where our main project partners are active: Switzerland, partly Germany, Benelux, Scandinavia. Overall, it is more going into the direction of Scandinavia. How many systems are operating with BITZER compressors?

Javerschek: There are about 200 installed systems for transcritical applications. Not all are yet operational but our project partners are preparing their installation. It is growing by the day.

Hendriks: When we say 200 systems we speak about a lot more compressors running in parallel. Depending on the capacity and project, we use 2,3 or 4 compressors, in supermarkets even up to 12. But they are all in Europe?

Hendriks: With regard to supermarkets, yes. There is interest from overseas, but the market is not as developed as in Europe yet. Some players are observing the market and have already shown interest. I am sure that we will see more progress in the future. We know that BITZER is also active in Australia. How about the developments over there?

Javerschek: So far, due to climate conditions it has been more focused on subcritical applications. We have only started to explore BITZER compressors in transcritical prototype systems. And the U.S. market?

Javerschek: Concerning commercial applications, the U.S. market is highly difficult. The UL (Underwrites Laboratories) standard mandates higher burst pressure safety factors than CEN. Due to the very high pressure levels of CO2 actual safety factors lead to unnecessary over-engineering with enormous costs and high weight.

Hendriks: Technically we could do this, we could build a compressor withstanding even higher pressures. But it has to remain affordable. Do you expect this U.S. standard to change in the near future?

Javerschek: Discussions are underway. This is an ongoing process.

Hendriks: In reality it is impossible to reach the burst pressure levels on basis of present requirements. Exceeding the maximum allowable discharge pressure significantly would stall its own motor, the system would idle. The question is: how do we establish relevant safety factors that are economically and technically sensible, while being safe? Apart from technical challenges, are there any market barriers regarding CO2 Technology?

Javerschek: The market is in a difficult situation, right now. For CO2, you have of course supermarket chains looking concretely for green solutions. But you also have developments, where often R22 is still used as the No.1 refrigerant. There, it will be difficult for CO2 and it will surely take some time to see CO2 in the market. In Germany, the federal environment agency openly supports CO2. Does this affect the industry?

Javerschek: Some retailers are focusing on CO2 more than ever because of that. And yes, policy has a big impact on the industry. However, I think we are still in an evaluation phase. At one point, supermarket chains will finish all test projects, will draw a line and will decide what will be their solution for the future. What’s clear is that they need a uniform solution for their stores, they can’t decide over and over again for every single business or country. What do you think is more effective to spur the use of natural refrigerants, tough legislation or tax incentives?

Hendriks: From my point of view, it is clearly policy. The state by state policy is fatal. This is no solution for Europe. We need, at least throughout Europe, one single solution. Everything else will increase costs and will complicate solutions unnecessarily. It is simply a blind alley and the industry won’t be able to cope with this situation. We cannot split the markets into countries anymore. Component suppliers act EU-wide, many even on a global scale. Clearly defined, uniform, straightforward and long term legislation is what we need. How does the current financial crisis affect your company, also in terms of investments in new technologies?

Hendriks: If investments are held back, this will of course influence our business. On the other side there is a slight relief when prices for raw materials and energy go down. From some countries we got positive feedback regarding our business performance. In other markets it is more complicated to pre-estimate what will happen. How will the development of new chemical refrigerants in the car air conditioning sector affect your industry?

Javerschek: Many companies are now hoping that there will be another chemical solution, as they simply failed to start investments in new technologies earlier. It remains to be seen whether they will come up with yet another refrigerant proposal in the future. The philosophy of Bitzer has always been to be at the forefront of new developments and set trends wherever it makes sense. We have recognized the potential for CO2 and we offer the components for this technology. Now the market has to decide in which direction we will move into. In the area of low temperature applications CO2 can become a standard solution, without doubt. In other solutions we can see hybrid solutions using two refrigerants together to be a widespread solution. Thank you very much.


By team (@r744)

Nov 25, 2008, 10:35

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