Frigo, a Japanese cold chain logistics service provider, has determined that its new Sakishima distribution center equipped with a CO2 (R744) refrigeration system uses 48% less energy than the 2030 target set by the Japan Association of Refrigerated Warehouses.

The 104,200m3 (3,679,800ft3) center opened last July in the Nanko Bay area of Osaka with an air-cooled Nihon Netsugen CO2 Super Green refrigeration system. Nihon Netsugen carries the ATMO 2024 Approved Natural Refrigerants Label from ATMOsphere, publisher of R744.com.

Frigo extrapolated six months of energy usage data to find the center uses 29.8kW/m3 (0.24TR/ft3) of power annually, with the Association’s 2030 annual target set at 57.4kW/m3 (0.46TR/ft3).

“We installed an environmentally friendly CO2 unit that provides dehumidification, defrosting and hot water from heat recovery, achieving an energy savings of 48% less than the industry’s target value,” said Saigan Atsushi, Frigo’s President.

Details of the CO2 refrigeration system were presented by Atsushi at the ATMOsphere APAC Summit 2024, held in Tokyo February 6–7. The event was organized by ATMOsphere.

According to Atsushi, the refrigeration equipment at the Sakishima center, with a total pallet capacity of 20,000 pallets, accommodates different temperatures depending on current service needs, with chilled Class C storage and processing space temperatures around 10°C (50°F) and Class F frozen storage below −18°C (−0.4°F).

“We installed an environmentally friendly CO2 unit that provides dehumidification, defrosting and hot water from heat recovery, achieving an energy savings of 48% less than the industry’s target value.”

Saigan Atsushi, Frigo’s President

Sustainable, resilient design

Frigo sought to balance concepts for a better workplace with environmental sustainability and its business continuity plan as part of the new warehouse design.

Atsushi indicated that Frigo has turned to automated pallets as a “countermeasure” to the lack of personnel; they also improve working conditions by reducing the time employees spend in refrigerated sections of the warehouse.

“Using electricity from our roof-installed solar panels and heat recovery from the CO2 system supports our environmental sustainability goals,” Atsushi said. “We fully utilize exhaust heat from our systems for desiccant dehumidification, heating brine for cooler defrosting and hot water for production processes.”

“We have to protect the quality of our customer’s products with many natural disasters [in Japan], including earthquakes and typhoons,” Atsushi said when explaining the company’s business continuity plan. 

A backup generator installed at the Sakishima Center supplies electricity in emergencies, Atsushi noted, with the air-cooled system also playing a part in the plan. “With the air-cooled system, our operations continue despite disruptions in the water supply.”

Following a 2018 typhoon damaging a different Osaka distribution center, Frigo had the refrigeration system installed on the second and third floors of the facility to prevent water damage in subsequent events.

Plans

When asked about the company’s plans to change its other warehouses to sustainable refrigerants, Atsushi said, “We have almost fully transitioned to CO2 refrigerants, excluding our cargo handling areas.”

He indicated that they would like to complete those areas as well but in a way that prioritizes their customer’s needs. “If we have a leakage from old equipment, we will switch to CO2 at that time.”

The company has noted from other warehouse data that a combined ammonia (R717) and CO2 refrigeration system increases energy efficiency during summer operations. In the wintertime, CO2 alone is more efficient.

Frigo plans to use the Sakishima Center as a model for future new projects and intends to use government subsidies offered by the Japanese Ministry of the Environment.

Founded in 1969, Frigo operates six cold storage warehouses in the Kansai region and one in the Tokyo Metropolitan area.

Japan-based OEM Nihon Netsugen Systems launched its CO2 Super Green unit in 2015. In September 2023, the company reported it had installed 530 units, with 120 units installed since January of that year.


“We expect our CO2 production to grow 1.5 times over the next year,” said Katsuhiko Harada, President of Nihon Netsugen, in an interview with Jan Dusek, Chief Operating Officer and Head of Asia Pacific at ATMOsphere.

“We expect our CO2 production to grow 1.5 times over the next year.”

Katsuhiko Harada, President of Nihon Netsugen