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Fit for the future

Eurammon’s ammonia working group chairman Eric Delforge explains the significance of the revision as a natural refrigerant.

Ammonia offers a great potential in the future for many applications and various capacity ranges thanks to its high environmental benefits and energy efficiency.

However, we still have decision-makers even within the RACHP sector who denounce ammonia as a ‘dangerous’ refrigerant.

Unfortunately, there is also a belief that ammonia installations are inherently expensive and do not offer a sufficient energy-efficiency advantage to provide an acceptable return on investment.

On top of that, the use of ammonia is excessively penalised by local legislative restrictions in many EU member states.

This is why we decided at a Eurammon meeting in 2012 to address these issues directly and set up the ammonia working group.

Aims of the ammonia group

Our aim is to provide information about the various possible applications of NH3 and to give ammonia a more objective image by communicating practical facts.

Top priority is given to provide substantiated information about ammonia as a refrigerant, so that both the owners and, in the end, also the environment can benefit from the use of ammonia.

General scientific data regarding energy efficiency and costs are supplemented by application examples from practical use.

We want to show the industry how and where ammonia can be used safely and efficiently as a refrigerant.

At the moment, we are planning a series of short video interviews with companies that have installed an ammonia refrigeration system and to have them testify to their positive experiences.

We hope the final list of end-users will include international representatives from the food manufacturing, temperature-controlled storage, beverage, dairy and brewery sectors.

Many operators keep us informed with a constant flow of highly valuable information about the challenges involved in practical use.

One example is the revised F-Gas Regulation.

While this provides a legal framework that is valid throughout Europe, covering which refrigerants can be used, the individual member states can have additional local rules, for example in terms of the safety regulations or eventually how refrigerants are taxed.

We collect this information and make it available to the market as background information, which we eventually these will be published with other relevant information in a Q&A section of the Eurammon website.

Ammonia’s role in the industry

Most people ignore the fact that ammonia has been used as a refrigerant for over a century, particularly in large capacity ranges, in industrial applications.

Furthermore, ammonia also offers a huge potential for commercial systems in the medium-capacity range.

Initially, we are looking to make the market aware of the fact that ammonia and other natural refrigerants are not just alternatives to HFCs but that in the long term they can become the most widely used of refrigerants.

Aside from being very environmentally friendly – remember ammonia has a GWP and ODP of zero – we also should emphasise its efficiency and future viability.

Added to that, a look at the overall lifecycle of refrigerating systems operating with ammonia shows that low operating costs not only swiftly compensate for the premium in purchasing these systems, but also offer long-term advantages in both environmental and economic terms.

This applies all the more when taking into account that in future the taxation of refrigerants may depend heavily on environmental criteria.

In the end however, the argument that convinces the most when I speak to high-end decision-makers is that applications using natural refrigerants tend to outperform all in total cost of ownership.

The new F-Gas Regulation has finally eliminated an investment hindrance for the ammonia sector.

Companies now know the legal framework conditions applying to the installation of a refrigeration system, particularly in terms of which synthetic refrigerants will be allowed and which prohibited in future.

However, these rulings are part of a dynamic process and must therefore not be considered as a definitive comfort zone. In other words, some conventional refrigerants that are basically still permitted today may suddenly become a real cost factor tomorrow.

In Scandinavia for example, taxation depends on the GWP and ODP level of refrigerants.

This scenario could be considered by more European countries – and it is already happening.

Most EU member states have undertaken actions to reduce their CO2 emissions by 2020 and there are reports that many countries will fail to reach their targets – and thus will face considerable penalties. The next step could entail sharing the costs out according to the “polluter pays” principle – and
that could include synthetic refrigerants.

Finally, and most important, is the fact that the new F-Gas regulation includes a phasedown scenario, where the available quota for use of F-gases will in time decrease dramatically.

Ultimately the most important message is that natural refrigerants offer the ideal solution to both energy efficiency and environmental issues.

Furthermore, the miniaturisation of what is already proven industrial refrigeration and heating technology to a commercial and domestic scale will boost business, jobs and contribute largely to a sustainable society.

I am convinced that the winners will be those equipment manufacturers and end-users that will make the direct transition to natural refrigerants fast.

Eric Delforge is corporate business and policy officer for compressor manufacturer Mayekawa

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