RAC’s Natural Refrigerants Round Table debate continues, bringing together refrigeration chiefs to consider the rise of natural refrigerants…
Nick Rivers, Ryan Jayberg
Ray Gluckman, SKM Enviros
Judith Evans, R,D&T
Barry Lyons, BOCand ACRIB
Peter Terry, Waitrose
Les King, Waitrose
Terry March –EmersonClimate Technologies
Kevin Glass, Bitzer
Graeme Ogilvie, Consultant
Eddie Gittoes, BRA, Arctic Circle
Stephen Gill, Consultant
Rob Lamb, Star Refrigeration
Andrew Gaved, RAC
How is the supply chain doing in keeping up with the new demand for naturals?
Barry Lyons Well I can start with gas. Supply of CO2 has gone up 400 per cent in the last year, albeit from a low base. We put in 3,000 cylinders initially and since then we have brought in another 3,000. It is not shortage of CO2, it is the packages to put it in.
There is a split between vapour and liquid cylinders and of course the proportion required between the two depends on the size of the system. We have had to come to a judgement on how much we need of each every time. There is about a three-month lead time on new cylinders, and that’s dictated by the availability of the valves.
Peter Terry If there is a shortage, the reality is that people will start stockpiling on their sites to protect themselves.
Nick Rivers As we have said, it needs a significant amount of gas to refill a system, and with the weight of cylinders, with only 120 kg in each, we are no longer talking about a man and a van to do it. Because getting the gas took longer than some customers might have liked, they started insisting on holding at least a system charge on site.
Barry Lyons We have a higher quality of CO2 called Food-Fresh and because of the shortages we have been sending that out, even though it’s a higher price. R744 is maximum ten parts per million moisture, whereas this is maximum four, but we were putting this out till fill in the gaps in supply.
How do you feel the manufacturers are progressing with supply?
Kevin Glass I think many manufacturers are still going through the trial phase with naturals.
I would say this, but a lot of compressors are fine now, they aren’t really too much of an issue with supply. But components have a challenge with transcritical – refrigeration systems are used to operating at about 25 bar whereas with transcritical, every single component has to operate in excess of 130 bar. Now compressors are generally pressure tested to five times the operating pressure, so for CO2, we need to go up to something ridiculous like 700 bar.
I think the component manufacturers are still developing their products for naturals in response to field experience.
Nick Rivers Components, generally need a longer lead time than for conventional refrigerants. But there is a concern over the parts required for service and maintenance of these systems - it needs a robust infrastructure to be developed to support the installations.
Eddie Gittoes My experience with the component manufacturers, is that with the trials of CO2 they have not been too bad, with pre-production volumes, but when it has come to the requirement for batch production that it has all gone pear-shaped. I think it is fair to say they are finding their feet when it comes to meeting rising demand.
Les King For hydrocarbons, most of the supply is good as the domestic market sorted that out a few years ago, and the big kit is fine. It is the bit in the middle that is a concern. We rely solely on one manufacturer for our scroll, as it’s the only one on the market, which we are not happy about. We’ve been asking Copeland for one for years.
Regulations are a major issue, and we are looking at the fire regulations for hydrocarbons, ammonia and heat pumps with the Health and Safety Laboratory to sort them out, so I think that will come.
To summarise, what is the one most important issue for the industry?
Rob Lamb Training is the big issue, ensuring that the volume of engineers gets the right training with naturals.
SG I would echo the comments on training, it is important that the education is there at all levels – and I would include consultants in that.
Eddie Gittoes I would like to see more commitment from senior members of the industry to the working groups that are working on the Code of Conduct. Take time out of the day job.
Graham Ogilvie With naturals, we need to look back at what happened in the past, where things went wrong, and put disciplines in place to stop it happening again.
Kevin Glass My concern is that we don’t make the wrong decisions – that natural refrigerants may not be the right decision across the board. There are a number of refrigerants out there which are still very good refrigerants and we are in danger of throwing the baby out with the bathwater if we stop using them.
Terry March We need to walk before we can run, and training is paramount. There are good refrigerants out there but we need to see what the G20 Climate meetings say about potential phase-outs.
Les King Harmonise the regulations so that they are simple and clear
Peter Terry I have four: 1) Design has to be efficient, safe and simple; 2) everybody needs to embrace change, to work with us, not against us; 3) change is an opportunity to involve the industry in what will be a new era of refrigeration; and 4) training and upskilling their team has to be seen as an investment
Barry Lyons Industry needs to work together not play its cards close to its chest on these things. Join some of the committees and help to change and go forward
Judith Evans People haven’t had enough of an unbiased overview of all the options available and in some instances, a bit more caution, with detailed trials providing real information, will be important.
Ray Gluckman Collaboration over the results of systems and stop cutting corners in a bid to get the costs down. If we do this development too quickly there are going to be cock-ups.
Nick Rivers We have got fantastic people in this industry, and we need to build on the positives. And with training, lets launch it and get it 80 per cent right rather than waiting for it to be a 100 per cent right before it gets going.