R744.com: How many CO2 stores does Simply have in Spain?
Gabriel Romero: We now have one store located in Bilbao – North of Spain, which was equipped with a CO2 transcritical system last year. We are currently collecting data and comparing this technology with the traditional system so that we can then decide what technology better meets our needs.
R744.com: Are you looking at other technologies?
Romero: Yes, we are also working with CO2 subcritical systems.
R744.com: How many CO2 stores does Auchan Super have in Europe?
Romero: I don’t have an accurate number but I think we have around 60 stores using CO2 cascade systems.
R744.com: For CO2 commercial refrigeration, which suppliers and installers do you work with?
Romero: For the Bilbao store project, EPTA supplied the rack whilst CAREL provided the electronic controllers. In commissioning the system we worked with a local installer.
R744.com: What have the driving factors been to decide to move to CO2 refrigeration? Is this a company-wide decision?
Romero: The main driver has been the financial aspect. With the new Spanish F-gas tax, we face a potential penalty of €3 million. However, we are also facing different challenges/ barriers such as the high initial investment cost of CO2 technology, which is often difficult to justify within the company.
The decision to go to CO2 was made by Auchan Spain.
R744.com: You have mentioned that investment costs are quite high for CO2 refrigeration. What kind of targets does the system need to meet in order for CO2 to be considered a worthwhile investment?
Romero: We have seen that the energy performance of the Bilbao installation is similar or even better than traditional systems working with HFCs (R404). We expect the new technology allows for energy savings of up to 10% compared to the previous system.
R744.com: Is Auchan Super using other natural refrigerants?
Romero: Yes, we have 5 distribution centers working with ammonia. We have not considered employing hydrocarbon coolers so far.
R744.com: For the system to be more efficient in warm climates you opted for an adiabatic cooling system. What are the results of this installation?
Romero: In addition to improving the energy performance, we decided to install an adiabatic system for safety reasons. Thanks to this, the working pressure of the system has been significantly reduced from 100 to 70 bars in the summer period.
R744.com: Aside from the investment cost, what other challenges do you see when adopting natural refrigerants in Spain? And what do you do to overcome that?
Romero: Another big challenge is the lack of qualified staff to operate these installations. As we now only have one store, this is easy to handle: we work with companies such as EPTA, which have very well trained engineers and technicians. In the long run, I think we still have room to improve in the field of training and education.