Hot off the press: GUIDE Japan 2016 unveils natural refrigerant industry trends

By team, Jun 28, 2016, 13:11 3 minute reading

On 28 June, shecco published its latest comprehensive report examining the current and future potential for natural refrigerants in Japan. The GUIDE Japan 2016 analyses trends for natural refrigerants with a special focus on the country’s most dynamic sectors: light commercial, commercial and industrial refrigeration, and heat pumps.

‘GUIDE to Natural Refrigerants in Japan - State of the Industry 2016’ is the most recent addition to shecco’s GUIDE series, this time focusing on the key market, technology and policy trends for natural refrigerants in Japan.

The report also shows how technology and policy have been progressing in other regions, such as Europe, North America and China. This comparison identifies the areas where Japan is leading the adoption of natural refrigerant technology and where it needs to speed up to maintain its international competitiveness.

The Japanese market has some of the greatest success stories for natural refrigerants worldwide, as well as key sectors possessing large potential growth for natural refrigerants. The benefits of heat pumps have been extolled in Japan for years now, but other sectors are beginning to attract praise of their own, especially the accelerated uptake of CO2 transcritical solutions in commercial refrigeration.

Japan marked by four major market trends

The GUIDE Japan zooms in on four key sectors where the use of natural refrigerants has been the most significant. The main market trends that can be observed in Japan today include the following:

  • Focused growth of CO2 in commercial refrigeration: this is the strongest trend that has emerged in Japan in the last three years, almost exclusively within convenience stores. From only 190 systems in March 2014, the market now boasts over 1,500 stores using CO2 transcritical systems.
  • Vending machines continue to broaden market for natural refrigerants: currently 1.35 million beverage vending machines in Japan use either hydrocarbons or CO2. With 2.5 million beverage vending machines in Japan, natural refrigerants make up over 50% of the market.
  • Industrial refrigeration beginning to turn corner: Japan has seen a growing number of ‘next generation’ industrial refrigeration installations. Safety concerns are being mitigated through the use of NH3/CO2 secondary systems while also ensuring efficiency. Government subsidies have already contributed to the entry of over 1,000 units into the Japanese market, equating to just over 300 separate installations, 113 of which were subsidised by the government.
  • CO2 heat pumps an example of best practice: Japan remains the world leader in terms of using natural refrigerants in domestic water heating, while the number of CO2 heat pumps is growing by 400,000-500,000 units annually. Currently there are approximately five million units in operation (as of February 2016).

Legislation, efficiency, environmental impact – the main market drivers

The main drivers of these great strides in the adoption of natural refrigerants are an increased role for government in steering the market away from fluorinated gases through financial subsidies, a revised F-Gas law that addresses the whole lifecycle of f-gases, and the dissemination of information.

While government has moved forward in certain areas, gaps remain that must be addressed to allow for full proliferation of natural refrigerant solutions in Japan. The High Pressure Gas Safety Act impose major limitations on the use of CO2 in bigger systems. The outdated classification of CO2 as an “active gas” under the Act limits the availability of large capacity systems and increases the cost of CO2 solutions for supermarkets and industrial refrigeration applications.

Besides legislation, an industry-wide survey identified the low environmental impact and energy efficiency of natural refrigerant-based equipment as key drivers for the uptake of HFC-free equipment in Japan.

More information

The GUIDE to Natural Refrigerants in Japan is now available to download for free at and


By team (@r744)

Jun 28, 2016, 13:11

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