Advansor is a leading manufacturer of refrigeration technology for supermarkets, food processing, air conditioning and industrial refrigeration – using CO2 as the only refrigerant.
“What we’ve been very good at is only focusing on CO2,” said Christensen, crediting the decision to stand by this strategy as a central pillar of Advansor’s success since it was founded in 2006.
He admits to having occasionally entertained doubts as to whether solely focusing on CO2 was the right decision to make. “It’s not even just focusing on CO2 – we’ve only been focusing on transcritical CO2,” he said.
It was, however, this singular drive that the Dane credits for Advansor’s continued success over its 10 years of existence, amid growing competition from more firms entering the CO2 transcritical market in Europe. “The whole organisation is only thinking about one thing – and that’s doing the best transcritical rack,” he explained.
Christensen puts the company’s success partly down to honesty about what the technology can and can’t do. “When you market or want to sell one technology only, you should only sell it in applications where it really makes sense,” he argued.
“The truth always comes out. So I always say to our sales people, ‘don’t try to sell CO2 when CO2 isn’t the best option’. That’s another key to our success. People trust us,” he said.
Supermarket sector driving technological innovation
Advansor has been hugely successful in installing large-scale refrigeration systems in big supermarkets for companies like Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Carrefour. But Christensen knew which way the wind was blowing.
Around four years ago, “we saw that retailers were not investing in hypermarkets or big stores anymore. They started to invest in convenience stores – smaller formats,” he said.
Asked whether going into convenience store formats like Carrefour Express or Sainsbury’s Local is a path that Advansor will take, Christensen was unequivocal: “Definitely. It has to be our future, because that’s where the supermarkets are spending their money.”
With this in mind, Advansor is currently developing a new product for its portfolio. At present it offers the ValuePack line for stores of 1,000-2,000m2, and a small three kW condensing unit. “But we now see the need to have something in between – a kind of even smaller ValuePack based on the principles of a condensing unit. It’ll be a booster system, able to service both low temperature and medium temperature capacities, with only two or three compressors.”
Supermarkets are not the only area that the company is focusing on. “Another area is industrial [refrigeration],” said Christensen. “That’s the reason why last year we set up a small organisation inside Advansor – it’s only two people at this time – to focus only on industrial,” he explained.
They are looking into opportunities in industrial applications like distribution centres, warehouses and food factories. “Today industrial is about 12% of our turnover. We want to triple that. It should be 35% of our turnover by 2020,” Christensen said.
Crossing the CO2 equator
Innovations like ejectors, parallel compression, sub-coolers and de-superheaters are helping to bring high-efficiency CO2 refrigeration systems to higher ambient temperature regions than had previously been considered technically and economically feasible. But they also make the systems more complicated to operate, Christensen warned. He fears that marketing the technology too early could even be detrimental to its long-term success.
“It’s one thing to have an ejector available. It’s another thing to have it actually running in a supermarket, with people out there able to service it and understand it,” Christensen warned.
Despite such challenges, Christensen is convinced that performance issues in warmer climates can be definitively overcome.
“I’d say the CO2 equator has already moved south. We can do systems in Spain and Portugal now – even without ejectors – which are competitive with HFC systems. We shouldn’t be afraid of selling transcritical CO2 systems in these countries, because we’re already there with that technology,” he insisted.
Christensen believes that given time, the successful integration of new innovations “will completely destroy the CO2 equator. We won’t even be talking about the CO2 equator anymore”.