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A natural optimism

The natural refrigeration conference ATMOsphere Europe returned to Brussels in March. Jana Topley Lira of organiser shecco looks back at the sixth and largest event

Attended by 230 participants and featuring 60 international speakers, the breadth of natural refrigerant applications presented at ATMOsphere Europe 2015 made it clear that in nearly all sectors, the natural refrigerant market is going from strength to strength.

In the commercial refrigeration sector, Carrier’s Stuart Webb noted that year-on-year growth of cascade systems was an impressive 51 per cent, but that this increase was being outstripped by transcritical refrigeration systems, which have increased by 63 per cent from 2013 to 2014.

CO2 system supplier Advansor is experiencing a similar upturn in business, according to director Torben Hansen. He reported that “Advansor has had a tripling in enquiries” over the past two years. For Mr Hansen, this shows that the growth is not just in the north of Europe but also the south.

A key focus of many presentations was the evolution of CO2 technology for southern European countries, where higher ambient temperatures previously had an undesired effect on the efficiency of R744. Ejectors, economisers and parallel compression were just some of the solutions predicted to sound the death knell for the so-called ‘CO2 equator’.

The market for hydrocarbons (HCs) is also evolving, spurred on by green procurement strategies in the foodservice and retail sectors. Leading end-users, McDonald’s and Red Bull for example, have invested in more than half a million pieces of propane refrigeration equipment.

According to shecco’s deputy managing director Nina Masson, there is in particular a growing appetite for hydrocarbons (HCs) in the North American food service industry.

The approval by the US EPA of the use of HCs in six rac applications including standalone commercial refrigerators and freezers will certainly help to cement this trend.

A first for CO2 in foodservice refrigeration in the UK

Also focusing on the foodservice sector, UK-based Green Cooling presented a case study about a CO2 refrigeration system, provided and installed for accountant KPMG at Canary Wharf, London – a project that encompassed a restaurant with a seating capacity of 1,500 people.

The project highlights the practical nature of using CO2 refrigeration within a centralised system as an alternative to conventional designs, while satisfyingthe UK BREEAMsustainable building standard.

The system installation features a twin-refrigeration Enex CO2 pack design with six Dorin compressors. A 4,500-litre hot water production system was incorporated within the CO2system design, in order to reuse the waste heat and provide higher overall system efficiency.

The catering facility benefits from higher efficiency and a sustainable cooling system that matches the flexible and variable load conditions that are found within a busy restaurant environment. This CO2 system represents a step forward within the HoReCa (Hotel, Restaurant, Cafe) market in the UK, expanding the scope of R744 beyond the more traditional, large-capacity retail sector, they noted.

Examples of good practice in industrial refrigeration and heating

A dedicated Industrial Refrigeration session collected a number of natural refrigerant technology case studies, including the first CO2 transcritical ice rink in Europe, installed in Gimo, Sweden.

Although examples of CO2ice rinks exist in Canada and the US, Kent Hofmann, sales engineer at Green & Cool and Jörgen Rogstam, managing director of Energi & Kylanalys, were proud to report the use of the first Swedish CO2transcritical version. Thanks to the installation, the daily average energy usage of the ice rink was reduced to 1,500 kWh, from 4,200 kWh. This suggests that the seasonal energy usage will be about 350,000 kWh, while the municipality will achieve savings of about 600,000 kWh a year, corresponding to more than a 60 per cent reduction in energy cost.

Also talking on the topic of CO2in industrial applications was manager of AF Consulting Paul Rivet, who reported on a CO2 transcritical system in a frozen fish factory in France. The system is made up of two continuous freezers with capacities of 350 kW at -40 deg C, as well as frozen storage rooms with a 100 kW capacity at -25 deg C, and working areas of 150 kW at +8/+10 deg C.

Although usually a project of this nature would use ammonia as the refrigerant, in this case a complete CO2 transcritical system was installed, due to the strict constraints on ammonia refrigeration in France, after comparison with direct pumped NH3, direct pumped HFC and a hybrid CO2/NH3 system revealed the transcritical installation to be an energy-efficient solution.

The increased focus on energy costs and the energy savings of ammonia heat pumps were brought to the fore in a case study presented by Johnson Controls, which installed an ammonia heat pump solution at the Cranswick abattoir, one of the main suppliers of pork products to supermarkets in the UK.

The aim of the project was to phase out the facility’s R22 and HFC dependency, improve product yield, and reduce the energy cost.

Thanks to the installation of a Sabroe NH3 heat pump reciprocating compressors, Cranswick was able to reduce the energy costs by around £500,000 per year, increase the productivity by 30 per cent and decrease the weight loss of the carcasses from 2.3 per cent to 1.4 per cent.

The installation set a new industry standard, as it not only monitors and trends the performance of the plant, but also actively hunts for optimal set points to reduce energy usage.

Unveiling of highly efficient heat pump

Complementing the main sessions, ATMOsphere Europe 2015 featured a series of ‘technomercials’, where manufacturers presented their equipment innovations.

This included a world premiere – the unveiling of the TripleAqua, a patented natural refrigerant heat pump using the hydrocarbon blend propaene, a blend of propane and polypropylene, as the refrigerant.

As its name suggests, the system offers three distinct elements for medium and large buildings – heating, cooling and, unlike standard technology, passive storage of heat and cold that can later be used for heating and cooling instead of being wasted.

In addition, it is can provide heating and cooling simultaneously.

The upshot is a 50 per cent reduction in energy consumption compared with traditional heat pumps, according to TripleAqua developer Menno Van der Hoff.

In addition, he said, the TripleAqua employs a VRF fan coil system and cut construction costs by 25 per cent.

It is also easy to install and use and incorporates standard components that are readily available on the market.

EU F-Gas Regulation and national legislation creating further opportunities for natural refrigerants

Organised for the first time since the new EU F-Gas Regulation came into force, ATMOsphere Europe 2015 provided a timely platform for key policymakers, industry representatives and stakeholders to exchange views with an audience of natural-refrigerant specialists.

Bente Tranholm-Schwarz (pictured right), deputy head of unit of DG Climate Action at the European Commission, provided a snapshot of the key measures under the EU F-Gas Regulation that entered into force in January 2015. The HFC phase-down that will require reducing the average GWP of refrigerants from 2,000 to 400 by 2030 gives a clear signal to the manufacturers and buyers of refrigeration and AC equipment to avoid the use of HFCs as much as possible.

The positive effects of the EU F-Gas Regulation on increased demand and availability of natural refrigerant equipment will need to be accompanied by an updating in national codes and standards. To help eliminate any regulatory barriers to the introduction of natural refrigerants, Ms Tranholm-Schwarz announced that the Commission has initiated a study that will identify codes, standards and legislation that limit or prevent the introduction or use of HFC alternatives at the EU and national level.

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