ATMOsphere Asia 2015: next five years to see R744 take centre stage in commercial and industrial refrigeration around the world

By Robert Davidson, Feb 10, 2015, 16:18 4 minute reading

During the 2nd edition of ATMOsphere Asia, it became apparent that due to a combination of industry awareness and expected global regulations restricting the use of HFCs; that R744 is primed to take centre stage globally. This drive to adopt R744 is becoming more evident with higher aspirations from Japanese firms and the government, and could help to green the 2020 Olympics in Japan.

ATMOsphere Asia’s market trends and technology case study sessions were full of insightful presentations, which put Japan’s continual efforts to switch to natural refrigerants into perspective; especially with regards to R744. Representatives from Panasonic, Carel, Mayekawa and Sanden explained where they see the future heading: and it’s good news for the industry with a growing trend for the adoption of R744 in both commercial and industrial refrigeration in Japan. Nina Masson, shecco’s Deputy Managing Director, was able to show that this was not an isolated trend as evidence suggests CO2 continues to emerge as a key refrigerant in Europe, with upward growth also in North America and China.

Japan’s focus on R744 in commercial and industrial applications

Tetsuro Homma, Executive Officer at Panasonic detailed his company’s increased usage of natural refrigerants, most notably their CO2 retail store system, which was developed with the support of the Japanese Ministry of Environment (MOE) and the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). This project shows a unified effort from the Japanese company to introduce CO2 systems and has subsequently created a wave of demand. It is expected that by March 2015, there will be 763 of Panasonic’s CO2 refrigerated stores in Japan. Moreover, the company is putting a lot of focus on improving their CO2 product line-up. The next generation showcases are 34% smaller and 20% lighter than R404A models, resulting in improved utility and performance, and easier installation.

The aims of Panasonic are as ambitious as they are noble, with Teturo Homma declaring that: “We’d like to play a key role in the Olympic Games 2020 in establishing Tokyo as a sustainable advanced city and creating a new society with natural refrigerant products, including CO2 cooling systems.”

Katsunori Shibata, CEO of Carel Japan, noted that they too have seen a growing demand for ‘small footprint CO2 applications’ in commercial applications

However, discussions were not only about commercial refrigeration, as industrial refrigeration too seems set to adopt CO2. Mayekawa’s Executive Director, Kuniaki Kawamura presented about their NH3/CO2 NewTon refrigeration system. Kawamura went on to clarify that usage of natural refrigerants is not just about the environment, as their NewTon industrial refrigeration model consumes 30% less energy compared to existing models. This has obviously struck a chord with end-users as more than 500 installations so far have been made, including in cold storage, ice arenas and freezers. Nevertheless, with about 10,000 industrial refrigeration plants still utilising R22 in Japan there are huge opportunities for natural refrigerants before the HCFC phase out in 2020. Also, as with Panasonic, Mayekawa has received government support and thanks to this there are now 30 CO2/NH3 installations under construction and with the increased budget for the next round of incentives it is expected that there will be increased activity.

Spreading the Japanese ethos throughout the world’s markets

Mayekawa are involved in nearby economies to try and promote best practice, including a Joint Crediting Mechanism (JMS) project for the cold chain industry in Indonesia, where they are trying to establish their NewTon model as a replacement for out-going R22 models.

Also active in Indonesia is Panasonic, who will soon have 13 CO2 transcritical in South East Asia.

Junya Ichikawa, General Manager and Division Head within Sanden added to these sentiments in his presentation when he noted that in the US, natural refrigerants are yet to reach their potential, and it is a global effort that is required, not just a Japanese one. Ichikawa was able to illustrate the huge scope of potential adoption of R744, by noting its near-universal applicability, be it in vending machines, showcases, cooling modules for industry, domestic water and space heaters and automotive systems. Sanden’s sales indicate the vastness of this industry, having sold 1 million CO2 systems until today, with predictions for another 1 million in 2015.

News from around the world: CO2 to win a gold in commercial refrigeration

Nina Masson, Deputy Managing Director of shecco focused her presentation on regional trends regarding the adoption of R744. Masson was able to hop from continent to continent, showing that in North America, Canada is leading in the adoption of CO2 transcritical systems, with Sobeys the leading food retailer with 72 stores presently using this system, with plans to open an additional 15 to 20 stores every year.

In Europe the news was equally auspicious, with the industry anticipating 6,000 transcritical systems by 2015 and 64,000 systems by 2025. Closer to Japan, China presently has 7 supermarkets using CO2, with one of them using a CO2 transcritical system. When it comes to light-commercial refrigeration, there are at least 12,000 CO2 bottle coolers, according to the preliminary data collected by shecco in the on-going research project called the GUIDE China (to be published in April 2015). International food retail chains and consumer brands drive the shift towards natural refrigerants in China.

Heat pumps are another application where CO2 is showing growth in China. While most suppliers are currently in the testing phase, data collected from 7 manufacturers indicate that there are already over 160 commercial CO2 heat pumps already in the market.

With these numbers, it was obvious to everyone in the room that a global shift to R744 is underway.


By Robert Davidson

Feb 10, 2015, 16:18

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