With the global HFC phase-down a hot topic of discussion in Australia’s HVAC&R industry, end users who attended ATMOsphere Australia 2017 on 2 May are increasingly turning to natural refrigerants as future-proof investment options for cooling technology.

Efficient, cost-effective and future-proof

During the discussion at Sydney’s Luna Park – chaired by Stuart Saville, national engineering refrigeration manager for leading Australian retailer Coles – end users singled out cost effectiveness, efficiency, and future-proofing as key factors in their decision to invest in natural refrigerant systems.

Setting the tone, Saville highlighted Coles’ commitment to sustainable solutions and the importance of communicating this to consumers.

“From the fact that you have solar panels on the roof, to mitigating waste through recycling programs down to the type of refrigeration plant you have. They are all good messages to try harder to put in front of the public,” said Saville.

Michael Englebright from Woolworths highlighted the leading retailer’s ‘2020 Commitments’ corporate sustainability strategy, which specifically targets investments in natural refrigerant systems.

“By 2020, we will deploy 10 natural refrigerant systems,” Englebright said.

Sean Davel is refrigeration specialist at New Zealand retailer Foodstuffs North Island, – which is a leading user of transcritical CO2 in the region. Davel commented on the increasing level of cost parity between natural refrigerant-based systems versus synthetic-based (HFO) systems.

“When installing refrigeration into a new build, the cost of a CO 2 plant has now reached a point where it is almost cost-neutral in comparison to a synthetic system,” he said.

“There is a cost premium when installing CO2 systems into existing stores. However, this is off-set by the efficiencies and low running cost of CO2 in comparison with synthetic refrigerants,” the Foodstuffs representative argued.

Ian Garradd, sustainability project officer for North Sydney Council, spoke highly of the ability of natural refrigerant-based heat pumps to serve some of the city’s heating needs.

“We found that heat pumps were considerably more efficient. For us there is no question that natural refrigerant heat pumps are the right way to go,” Garradd said.

In a sign of end users’ growing recognition of the long-term benefits of natural refrigerants, Tim Hill, director of real estate & construction at Costco Australia, commented: “We would like to future-proof our future installations as much as possible. Total cost of ownership is more important to us than initial cost.”

“Compared to the old plant, we’re using a lot less power. There’s been no breakdowns and we haven’t had any down time.

Robbie Mayer, F. Mayer Imports

Reducing operating costs…with natrefs

In an on-stage conversation between Robbie Mayer (joint managing director of Australian gourmet food importer F. Mayer Imports) and shecco CEO Marc Chasserot, attendees learned about F. Mayer’s overall satisfaction with the decision to install and use natural refrigerant systems for cold stores.

“Yeah we’re happy,” said Mayer, highlighting the difference in operating costs between the company’s synthetic and natural refrigerant-based systems used at different warehouse locations.

“I think the Chief Financial Officer worked out what we used to run at our old site, which would have been three or four thousand square metres. At [our new site], we are running about 7,000 square metres, total refrigeration, and it costs us less to run than the old site.”

“Compared to the old plant, we’re using a lot less power. There have been no breakdowns and we haven’t had any downtime,” Mayer said.

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