Leading manufacturers of CO2 (R744) refrigeration systems see robust growth in the adoption of transcritical CO2 refrigeration systems for commercial and industrial applications in North America.
But they emphasize the importance of clear regulation, training, innovative products and awareness-raising for the North American CO2 refrigeration market to continue to grow.
They delivered their remarks during the market trends panel at the ATMOsphere (ATMO) America Summit 2022 on natural refrigerants. The conference took place June 7–8 in Alexandria, Virginia, and was organized by ATMOsphere, publisher of R744.com.
Panel participants included Derek Gosselin, Director of Technical Product Support at Dover Food Retail’s Hillphoenix; Phillip Walker, Director of Refrigeration Solutions at Arneg; Thomas Wright, VP Sales and Customer Service at Kysor Warren Epta US; and Andre Patenaude, Director Solutions Strategy – Cold Chain at Emerson Commercial and Residential Solutions. Evapco’s Vice President, Kurt Liebendorfer also joined the panel discussion to present intelligence on ammonia/NH3 (R717).
Growth in demand for CO2 systems
Based in Conyers, Georgia (U.S.), OEM Hillphoenix has seen a positive growth trend in CO2 for refrigeration over the years and expects for this trend to continue. To date, Hillphoenix has installed around 800 transcritical CO2 booster systems in the U.S. The manufacturer offers a wide variety of products to meet the growing demand for CO2-based systems.
“We’re expanding our products into different segments from [convenience] stores to supermarkets, to industrial and health to get the industry to adopt CO2,” explained Gosselin. This includes a new condensing unit designed for smaller stores, he added.
Arneg, an Italian OEM, has installed over 1,000 CO2 systems globally, with some 50 systems in the Americas (though not in the U.S.). The international manufacturer is seeing substantial growth worldwide, particularly within the Canadian market, according to Walker.
In addition to expanding its market and production to meet growing demand, the company is looking into other strategies to boost its offerings, like integrating self-contained propane (R290) cases.
OEM Kysor Warren Eptahas nearly 100 CO2 installation in North America, with another 200 installations coming soon. The manufacturer has seen a 50% increase in the demand for natural refrigerant refrigeration systems over the last year and is anticipating a 30% increase in 2023, according to Wright.
For Kysor Warren, future work is all about supporting the market’s adoption of natural refrigerants, including its new CO2 condensing unit, which is due in the U.S. by the end of this year.
Patenaude of component manufacturer Emerson is attributing the growth in demand for CO2 to a number of factors, including corporate interest in the net-zero movement, compliance with regulations and changes in consumer shopping behavior.
Clear regulatory guidelines
According to the panel, clear regulatory guidelines from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are needed to support the market’s transition to natural refrigerants like CO2.
“We need a hard cut off,” said Patenaude. “In Quebec we have a high density of CO2 systems, and there’s a reason for that. Provincial government put a hard stop on [certain] refrigerant in January 2021. There’s nothing greater than that.”
Wright echoed this sentiment, saying that a clear cut-off date would have a big impact.
Gosselin stated that country-wide regulation is key and that with a clearer understanding of restrictions and timelines, end users will react accordingly.
“If you want to do it, you need to do it nationally, and you need to be clear and precise about what that is,” he explained. “Give the end users a chance to put a strategy together to meet that requirement.”
“If you want to do [regulation], you need to do it nationally, and you need to be clear and precise about what that is. Give the end users a chance to put a strategy together to meet that requirement.”Derek Gosselin, Hillphoenix
Liebendorfer agreed that clarity is key.
Training and upskilling for the future
A challenge highlighted by a number of the panelists is that of ensuring there are enough trained engineers and technicians to meet the growing demand for CO2 refrigeration systems.
“It’s very important for us not only to supply the products, but also the support that is needed to make sure that the systems continue to operate properly and efficiently,” said Gosselin. “It’s important to support the adoption of CO2 through the whole breadth of the application.”
To ensure the manpower and support is there, Hillphoenix has developed a learning center, which offers training courses and covers system installation and start up, as well as maintenance and troubleshooting. The manufacturer has also created an ECO2 Center of Excellence to support every element of the CO2 value chain, from engineering, design and manufacturing to delivery, installation and servicing.
Attracting talent to the HVAC&R industry was also acknowledged as a challenge that needs to be overcome. Discussion centered around promoting trade schools to high school and college students with a focus on the long-term opportunities that the industry can offer as companies enhance their sustainability goals and transition to natural refrigerants.
Raising awareness of CO2
Despite its growing popularity, there remains some confusion surrounding CO2 as a refrigerant, according to many of the panelists. To combat this, awareness-raising and education is key.
“We spend more time educating our customers, working through all the gray zones to help them understand what they can do and what they cannot do and how they can adopt a solution with strategic and focused collaboration,” said Walker. “I think that’s more important now than ever.”
Kysor Warren Epta has had a similar experience to Arneg’s and conducts online and factory training on its transcritical CO2 systems to help customers understand the technology better as demand for R744-based refrigeration grows, explained Wright.
Innovation to support a changing landscape
As CO2 becomes more popular as a refrigerant, it’s important that manufacturers offer customers a wider variety of product options, the panelists said.
According to Arneg’s Walker, some trends that are influencing its product portfolio include the rise in urban development, which requires commercial refrigeration to be integrated into residential buildings and convenience stores transitioning away from HFC-based systems.
Innovation is also necessary to overcome barriers when they arise. For example, Arneg’s approach to product recycling has helped to lessen the impact of supply chain shortages following the COVID-19 pandemic. By collecting old equipment and salvaging its metal and electric components, Arneg is able to reuse them in new systems, such as a recently built transcritical skid.
Both Kysor Warren and Hillphoenix also emphasized the importance of being innovative and flexible when developing product portfolios.
“We’re going to continue to invest in manufacturing and work with our partners to have the components that are needed so that we can continue the trend in the growth of CO2 in our industry,” said Gosselin.
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