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The future of the industry

The industry is on the verge of great change on a number of fronts, from the take-up of carbon dioxide and other new technologies through to likely restrictions on HFCs. That means huge challenges along with the opportunities. Our second cross-industry debate considers the issues

Are we as an industry ready for widespreadintroduction of CO2?

Paul Garton The simple answer is ‘no’. We all agree that it is a viable alternative. It has its market, and many people have tried it in the retail industry and it is useable.But regarding the support, the training, the supply chain, materials, even down to the valves, we are actually quite a way away from being ready.

Kevin Glass I agree, from a component point of view. Compressors become at risk primarily when the training or the knowledge of what the systems do is lacking.
Subcritical CO2 is quite viable - it is quite similar to refrigeration systems as everybody knows them and the industrial boys probably know cascade systems a little bit better than the commercial guys. But the Round table challenge comes with transcritical systems in the commissioning, installation and maintenance

Paul Garton Well I agree that components are ‘available’, but from an end-user’s point of view, if something goes wrong with a compressor, say, then to be told that it is the only one available in the world, it makes it a much less viable commercial decision. It is going to take time for things to change.

Bob Arthur There are some design issues which need bottoming out as well. For instance, the compressor we are using for subcritical has a 25 bar blow-off valvewhich means that effectively it can’t stand down at ambient condition, it has to continually run. It’s little things like that. When you look at componentry such as ball valves, a lot of the equipment can stand the high pressures, but they just haven’t gone through the process of re-rating it. So we are in an awkward position of having to design systems with limited availability. Everyone says they have the gear available and ready to go, but there are no real standards drawn up, which we have enjoyed for years on traditional equipment, which has enabled people to sit down and design systems and has allowed OEMs to work out what they need to do. We have to all agree on this so we can go forward.

Mike Nankivell The refrigeration industry was blamed over CFCs when in reality it was only responsible for about 12 per cent. The biggest culprit was aerosols. Because we had replacement technology pretty much ready, we accepted it. The fact is that now we aren’t ready with an alternative that satisfies all the applications. We are a very long way away from that.

What is the biggest challenge then with CO2?

Barry Lyons For me the biggest issue is training. What the average service engineer knows about CO2 can be written on the back of an envelope. M&S has taken the initiative with its own training and I applaud it for that, but why does the industry have to bear the brunt of the cost? To me, government are saying “you need this, you need that, to be green”. But we need to be given the money to train the people to do the jobs.

Bob Arthur I support that, because the Government is saying to contractors: ‘You’ve got to do this to meet F-Gas,’ and now we retailers are talking about CO2 and
potentially hydrocarbons too. My worry is that many people can’t braze to save their lives, so I am also worrying about brazing standards. When you look at all those, the average contracting operation is not going to spend that amount of money to get training. So it does need government support, They have bailed out the banks but they are leaving our industry floundering around.

David Bostock It is the time element too. You are trying to convert your engineers within three years, for F-Gas training, then you are talking about new courses. You are taking half your workforce out on a regular basis in the middle of a recession. As contractors, we all the see the need, but the problem is where does themoney come from?

Bob Arthur And to be clear, the only way I force people to train in CO2 is to tell them they wont get any
contracting for me unless they train their engineers

David Bostock And the economic argument applies to
equipment too. We have been on the verge of going CO2
for a number of years but the industry is not like car
manufacturers selling millions of units, to invest in
development of maybe thousands of units at best is quite
a big investment. You’re asking for limited resources to
be used in parallel areas at the same time - is it CO2, is
it HFOs etc? - and you have to make a choice.

Gordon Adams The problem I have, is I don’t have a
clear idea of where the CO2 technology is going, as the
end-users have chosen different routes. If you then
multiply that by the number of different European countries, it is difficult to know which route to go
down. It’s a bit of a fog.

Paul Garton There is a big difference between the way
the end users have approached R404A and CO2. If an
engineer turned up to a 404A site, he would recognise
the components being used, but with the CO2 systems
every one looks completely different, pipes running
everywhere. Even if he is trained on CO2, it will take a
couple of hours to follow all the pipework.

Kevin Glass It is pressure from the Government that
has pushed us this far anyway. As far as I am concerned,
HFCs are still a viable alternative still if we address
some of the other issues such as leakage. Another issue
as compressor manufacturers is the sheer number of
refrigerants that are now available. We are being asked
to look at something like 50 refrigerant blends at the
moment. If we could literally cut down our choices to
three that would make our life so much simpler.

Should we be lobbying the Government on training to fit in with its vision for a low carbon economy?

Kevin Glass We have a company based in Brazil that
makes compressors. The interesting thing is the
majority of costs of training is met by the government
and that is up to degree level. If Brazil can do it, why
can’t a leading industrial country like Britain?

Mike Nankivell The idea in Government is that it is
industry who should invest in improving its standards,
which is why it won’t give Train to Gain for F-Gas
training, because it is a legal requirement, not a
vocational choice. What are we training people to do,
if we don’t have the standards in place?

Can the major retailers can get together to put some pressure on the Government over training?

Paul Garton Ah, but we are retailers, we only sell beans.

Bob Arthur I think the industry needs to take it on,
maybe with the partnership of the customer base. There
is a need for the likes of ACRIB and IOR to get to
Government and the likes of the Carbon Trust and really
work on them. They could invest that money they are
pretending to invest in the ECA scheme much more
effectively if they invested in training the engineers.

Does R22 phase-out complicate the issue further?

David Bostock We must get a call a month from
somebody offering us another R22 replacement - and
some of the marketing now seems to be just muddying
the waters, so we expect a flood of enquiries after the
phase-out deadline.

Barry Lyons There are at least 13 alternatives to R22,
and that doesn’t include the naturals. The word ‘drop-in’
is misleading because some engineering will have to be
done with all of them, even if it is only adjusting all the
expansion valves. Lets not forget that HFOs are actually
HFCs, but they don’t want the negative connotations.
They are saturated HFCs, with a double carbon
molecule. Not everything you see does what it says on
the tin.

Gordon Adams If you take the world outside of the
major supermarkets, the trade is struggling and I don’t
know what will happen over the next three or four
months. There is still a big population that doesn’t
know what it is doing after R22.

Barry Lyons R22 will run out, and that is when you will
start seeing things turning up from China and the like.

Bob Arthur And you will get people saying: “I don’t
care what you put in there just get it up and running

David Bostock Every time you drop in a gas you have to have a huge round of leak checks, because after the
drop-in, it leaks like a sieve We are compounding the
problem, not solving it. My concern is that a lot of
food manufacturers will wait until the system breaks
down, there will be a massive leak and a panic and
they will just keep filling with gas to keep it running.
If you just kept R22 in would have actually been better
for everybody.

Is direct emissions only part of the challenge

David Bostock Direct emissions are maybe only 25
per cent of the total impact. We are trying to solve a
small part of the problem.

Mike Nankivell While CO2 may work for some sectors,
certainly as far as comfort cooling is concerned, CO2 is
a long long way from being suitable. The equipment for
CO2 comfort cooling is hugely expensive compared to
any other option, is a huge problem for contractors in
terms of skills and more importantly is far short of the
energy efficiency of HFCs.

Paul Garton The changes we have done so far has
given us an average 20 per cent energy saving. What
would I have to reduce our 11 per cent leakage rate to
match those savings? It isn’t going to go straight down
to 0.2 per cent. Realistically, we are putting in several
R404a systems for every CO2 one we do.

Bob Arthur I think that we do need to get our act
together on leakage - its been around since R502, its
always been the issue we have been criticised for. We
have the second ban now, and we have it again because
we are still leaking the stuff. Whatever we end up with,
with HFCs, which hopefully wont be a third ban, the
only way to manage it is to prove that leakage can be
addressed. The big risk is what happens to legislation.
We don’t know what is going to be passed in the way
of HFC management, but what we do know is that CO2
is less likely to be legislated against in the future. So to
make a progressive move towards CO2 and HC is the
right decision, but we are still going to have HFC
systems out there for the next 25 years. It is not one or
the other.

David Bostock It is fantastic to see the investment
from supermarkets, but you are the only ones doing it.
The suppliers aren’t investing - they are running 20- or
30-year-old factories and you shake your head that
they are actually running.

But aren’t there incentives for energy

Mike Nankivell There has been an awful lot talked
about the potential of heat pumps. It has taken off and
been adopted pretty much worldwide, but in the UK
the Government is actually putting barriers in the way
of adopting the systems, because they want it
independently tested then rubber stamped to get onto
the list for ECAs. Unfortunately, it costs the industry a
huge amount of money to rubber stamp it, when they
have already paid to have it tested in the first place.

Kevin Glass It is actually incredibly difficult because
you can only claim the money if it is on the technology
list when the invoice is paid, and by the time the
invoice is paid it may have fallen off the list.

Paul Garton It is not actually a driver for how we
invest in equipment. It is a benefit, but it doesn’t
dictate what I buy.

Atul Wali We should be making the Government
aware of the benefits of energy efficient technology.
How quickly can we get the best technology out there
and how can we give the supply chain the incentive?
With lighting, it is not just chip technology but the
LED technology that is changing rapidly.

David Bostock The trouble with offering energy
efficiency as a solution is the payback time is currently
so long, it is very difficult to convince the customer to
take it. Some customers want six months - I have told
them if they can get any savings in that time, they
should sack their chief engineer now.
If you move to five years - which is still short,
given the plant is 25 to 30 years lifetime - that is more
achievable, but with two years the norm, it is very
difficult to sell. The recession has not helped in cutting
off the flow of investment. Even though for customers
the energy premium on their old kit is phenomenal,
they won’t change. It is a mindset. I wish electricity
was three times more expensive.
We quote to a customer that they need their R22
system replaced and it will cost them £2 million. They
ask what benefit they will get and we say “none, really”.

Kevin Glass Tell them that in five years’ time it will
be £4 million, as there will be none left.

But do they know that it is about obeying the law?

David Bostock That comes down to policing. If we
had a lot more standards and enforced all of them you
would see a massive improvement. But even the
standards we have like EN378 are often not complied
with - and that is a safety issue, not just about obeying
the law. I turn up to some sites and it is a horror story.

Mike Nankivell We have put a proposal forward around
the damage that could be done with drop-ins, risking
leakage and more HFCs into the atmosphere. Modifying
the system would require the standards to be met again

Paul Garton Should there be a measurement - you
have to put in a system that is at least this efficient?
Could we ask the Government to come round and say
whether our systems are more efficient and then give us
money back. For instance if you meet the overall level
of energy efficiency you get 10 per cent back of the cost
of the system.

David Bostock You can have a very efficient system,
but it depends on human operation. So a cold store’s
efficiency can go down if the operator leaves the door

Mike Nankivell There is the BRE test that showed 15
per cent of the charge lost leads to a 50 per cent loss in efficiency.

Bob Arthur I have said many times that I don’t pay
service operators to leak the gas, so when we are
accused as retailers of leakage it is a bit of a misnomer.
There are 46,000 retail units in the UK, so the major
retailers are probably only half, and that’s before all the
pubs and food producers and other users of
As retailers, we are going to need refrigeration and
there is a commitment at the highest levels to that down
the supply chain. That’s why we have very clear views
that we should have registration and root out the wide
boys and the wild cards and bring in quality standard. A
lot of this comes back to the government and getting off
its hind legs and supporting the industry. But whatever
else our technicians may argue about, the public and
government perception is that it is not about energy
efficiency, it is about leakage.

What message should we be sending out on
leakage then?

Mike Nankivell Many of the public don’t even know
there is a gas in there.

Bob Arthur But if hydrocarbon is an alternative, we
have to crack the problem with leakage. I think a
stenching agent is a good idea, not pleasant but not
objectionable. We are going to trial it with Barry.

Kevin Glass Can we get to a leak-free store?

Bob Arthur Yes. From cutting the joints out, we are
actually getting nitrogen purging. Because we are seeing
inside the system now, I believe we have to have better
system pipework too. The catastrophic leak will be from
poor installation. In terms of leak factors, you’ve got
how the pipe is installed, the quality of the installing, the
way it is put together. I have seen half a dozen Schraders
on one bit of pipe - why they are there I have no idea.
The average Schrader, if it doesn’t leak when it is
installed, will leak within a year to 18 months.

David Bostock We need to inspect all these systems
and one of the problems we will get is a total inability
to get to them. We need to allow them to be inspected.

What other technologies should we be
looking at?

Paul Griffiths I think there is a future for trigeneration
in the right application, but what is stopping it at the
moment is the cost. If the cost of gas and electricity
changes by pennies, that could change all the decision
David Bostock District cooling can offer some
potential I imagine. It allows you the economies of
scale. And if someone wants heating, or someone
wants cooling, they can have it efficiently. Perhaps it
will be building regs that drive the move to efficiency
- when you refurbish an existing building you will
have to make improve the overall efficiency.
Atul Wali Chip technology will be using a more and
more efficient module in the same size unit. We are also
working on controls - for instance, maybe the store or
factory area would be dark until someone comes in.
n Could you summarise what the industry should
strive for in the future?
Paul Griffiths I would like to see some sort of tax
incentive scheme for returning R22 cylinders, such as
a carbon credit. That would get the refrigerant moving.
David Bostock Effective policing of the regulations is
essential - unless there is government money available
for effective enforcement, it is all just window-dressing.
Barry Lyons We need to involve the Government
more in our affairs and to get them to take it seriously
- the talks about getting personal registration to be
made law is a case in point. As much as the F-Gas regs
are doing to regulate things, there needs to be more.
The industry is always being let down.
Mike Nankivell I would echo that. The Government’s
representatives are very good at listening, but they
don’t seem to hear. But I think we need to raise our
game too. We need to prove that as an industry we are
not just out for the fast buck, that we are concerned
about the environment and that we have a huge amount
of expertise not being tapped into. We should also raise
our voice against the environmentalists.
Kevin Glass I don’t think you will remove ac
for comfort cooling because you can’t redesign
existing buildings, you can’t flatten London. If you can
combine with heating systems, that may be more
viable. I am sure there will be a ban on HFCs and I
think that will be GWP based and the feeling in the
company is that you won’t be able to use refrigerant
with a GWP over 2000. Therefore that is ruling out
410 and 404a and 407a on the new measurements.
HFOs have a GWP of 4 so that is actually looking
quite promising to us. But if you could knock 5-6 per
cent off CO2 emissions from cars then you could forget
worrying about our industry. Regarding emissions we are
not that bad, maybe we should beating ourselves up over
it. But the one thing it comes back to is training and
Government’s part in providing assistance.
Gordon Adams I agree on training. The refrigerant
handling courses are a step forward, but it is only handling; it really needs a higher skill set than that.
Atul Wali I would like to see the supply chain more
aware of the potential of LEDs - we believe in the next
five years or so, 90-95 per cent of all lighting solutions
will be met by LED.
Bob Arthur The HVCA can call on the services of a
lobbyist and we need that for refrigeration. We need
the industry to do it - we as end users can help, but it
has got to come from you.
Paul Garton I want us as an industry to decide which
route we should look down first: is it leakage, is it
energy efficiency or is it CO2 and naturals? Which one
do we focus on? The industry needs to get its act
together on that. The only natural solution we have
really cracked so far is hydrocarbon integrals, the rest
is still ongoing.
David Bostock If we are going to get the message
across we need to go the financial people, not the
engineers. What is it that will make them want to make
a change? For the food industry it is relatively easy as
it is business critical, but I believe most financial
people would not know that their factory might have to
close because they can’t get the gas anymore.
For comfort cooling, what is the lever that will
force them to take notice?
I think we will have to accept the fact that we will
have to give in on HFCs, the argument is where we can
draw the line. For smaller units, they can be better
controlled at the factory level for quality and leakage
- you can guarantee low leakage around 0.5 per cent
- and for those you can go for the most efficient
solution. But for bigger chiller based systems I think
we will have to go for an alternative refrigerant and
accept the compromise on efficiency. Because we
are not going to change our skill level overnight.