FMI show 2012: Interest in CO2 grows among US food retailers

By Sabine Lobnig, May 09, 2012, 10:19 4 minute reading

At the most-attended trade show for the food marketing industry in Dallas, a range of exhibitors channelled attention to their R744 commercial refrigeration solutions and components. The next big market push for CO2 solutions will come from the largest supermarket chains and consumer brands, system manufacturers and component suppliers confirmed. + PHOTOS

At this year’s largest gathering of the food retail industry, FMI 2012, more than 12,000 professionals from 90 countries got together from 30 April to 3 May to discuss latest trends in how to best produce, distribute and market food to North American consumers. While this year the focus was put on the role of mobile applications and cell phones as a way to more actively engage with consumers before and during the purchasing process, dedicated educational sessions about sustainability as a key driver to move the industry forward were also held over the 4 day event to emphasise the role of greening the supply chain. 
 
On the show floor, only a limited number of refrigeration equipment manufacturers and component suppliers were present. However, a number of the suppliers present raised awareness among visitors for new or already established solutions to reduce HFC charge, gain energy efficiency and/or demonstrate environmental stewardship by adopting R744-only, secondary or cascade solutions.
 
R744 systems on the FMI show floor
 
Hill Phoenix - transcritical CO2 system orders lining up: The leading, and currently only supplier of CO2 transcritical systems on the US-American market, attracted high attention with its CO2 booster system designed by newly acquired Danish manufacturer Advansor. As a major step forward to establish itself on the North American market, Advansor installed a first CO2-only system in Canada just shortly before FMI. The system was the first to be entirely manufactured in Hill Phoenix’ premises in Conyers, Atlanta. Hill Phoenix confirmed high interest in the solution with a significant number of orders lining up. However, the difference in initial costs, although rather small, is still the main barrier for more rapid sales. Hill Phoenix’ proactive approach includes a dedicated Learning Centre and R&D centre to further develop the technology and educate customers, as well as 50 field service engineers being trained about the proper installation of R744 systems. As the next big hurdle to take, Hill Phoenix is working on increasing the energy efficiency of CO2 solutions to be a viable option also for the Southern parts of the USA where higher ambient temperatures prevail. 
 
R744.com will inform in a separate article about Advansor’s Canadian system and its expectations for the coming months. 
 
Parker - increased interest in R744 but need for qualified technicians: With its large “Ask us about our CO2 Solutions” panels above its booth, the leading supplier of valves and pressure regulators drew special attention to its complete range of product solutions for both cascade and transcritical systems. Parker pointed to the leading role of food retailer Wal-Mart in adopting CO2 liquid glycol systems – a technology choice that seems to be preferred for most new stores. The component supplier confirmed increasing interest in their R744 solutions at FMI, while also referring to a lack of qualified technicians to further speed up the market uptake. 
 
Carel - the main push for R744 still comes from Canada: Producer of controllers and expansion valves, Carel showcased its R744 valves. While interest at the FMI was rather moderate, Carel confirmed a general increased interest in these components in North America where the biggest part of the business would still come from Canada. 
 
Heatcraft / Kysor Warren - lack of trained maintenance staff a major barrier: At their booth Heatcraft was showcasing their CO2 glycol secondary system already successfully used by Food Lion and Fresh & Easy in the US. Compared to a R404a system energy efficiency gains of 5% have been recorded. Heatcraft also confirmed that the lack of trained maintenance staff would constitute a key barrier for a wider roll-out of R744 solutions. 
 
Hussmann - rising trend in smaller store formats: The manufacturer of commercial refrigeration systems pointed to the rising trend of smaller store formats being adopted across the USA. While the interest in CO2 cascade solutions is growing, the total number would still be at a low level with approximately less than 100 across the whole of North America. The solution reduces HFC refrigerant charge by 60-70% at a 30-50% lower overall carbon footprint. 
 
true - looking into CO2 for beverage coolers: While the leading supplier of beverage coolers and freezers currently offers solutions mostly for R290 propane refrigerant in the field of HFC-free equipment, it confirmed that driven by the market demand of a leading consumer brand it is also looking into CO2 as a solution for beverage equipment. 
 
EPA: Next big step are low-GWP refrigerants
 
Keilly Witman, representing the Environmental Protection Agency’s “GreenChill Program”, educated visitors about the regulatory process in the US, the phase-out process for HCFCs and viable alternatives to choose. Witman emphasised that “what we are really seeing as the next big step” would be the emergence of low or zero-GWP refrigerants, in which natural refrigerants would have “moved from theory to practice”. She urged supermarkets to attach greater attention to environmental savings to be made via reduced leakage and the adoption of more benign refrigerant solutions.  

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By Sabine Lobnig

May 09, 2012, 10:19




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