Carrefour, one of the largest retail groups in the world, is aiming to reduce overall carbon emissions by 40% by 2025 and by 70% by 2050 (compared to 2010 levels). It intends to achieve this by reducing energy consumption, and by reducing CO2 emissions generated from refrigeration and transportation.

To reduce refrigerant emissions, the Carrefour Group is phasing out HFCs and replacing them with CO2 for commercial refrigeration. By the end of 2015, it had installed 260 stores with CO2 technologies in seven countries.

Towards an HFC-free Carrefour

Paolo Martini, Refrigeration & HVAC Manager for International Support at the Carrefour Group, is the man charged with delivering this transition. “We’re moving to eliminate HFCs,” Martini says. “This is the goal that we’d like to reach – that’s for sure!”

Yet the driving force behind his vision for the retail giant runs deeper still – by adopting natural refrigerants, “you can reduce your CO2 impact and consume less energy,” he enthuses.

With HFC phase-out deadlines under the EU’s F-Gas Regulation on the horizon, Carrefour’s response to the evolving HVAC&R landscape is marked by two distinct approaches. The first centres on reducing direct emissions from refrigeration, HFC leakages, and other refrigerant gas leakages. The second is to replace HFCs with natural refrigerants.

Carrefour first decided to go down the natural refrigerants route in 2009. To begin with, hybrid systems were installed to help familiarise staff members with how CO2 works as a refrigerant. “It has been a process – to improve our knowledge, installers’ knowledge, and the availability of components,” Martini explains.

Since those first steps, the decision to switch to CO2 transcritical in Europe has proven so successful that the Group is planning to roll out the systems in other parts of the world – starting with Brazil.

CO2 equator disappearing

The efficiency of CO2 refrigeration systems in warm climates has long been a matter of intense debate and source of concern among experts. Yet Martini is convinced that such fears are long past their sell-by date.

In Spain, Carrefour currently boasts CO2 transcritical systems in 18 Hypermarkets and one Supermarket. It has installed CO2 subcritical systems in nine Hypermarkets and 14 Supermarkets.

“The first Hypermarkets using transcritical CO2 were in the north of Spain, where maximum temperatures tend to be moderate. Energy consumption there for the new systems was low, even compared to subcritical installations,” says José Francisco Mollá, technical director of Carrefour Spain.

“This, together with the fact that we didn’t encounter any significant problems, encouraged us to continue doing CO2 installations in places where ambient temperatures are higher,” Mollá explains.

He sees continuous innovation in CO2 technology for commercial and industrial applications, specifically focused on improving the performance of transcritical systems in warm climates, as a major driver of increased uptake of natural refrigerant solutions in Spain.

“Pressure from the EU F-Gas Regulation and a Spanish tax penalising the use of fluorinated gases are encouraging the use of alternatives,” Mollá adds.

Switching from f-gases to natrefs…worldwide

Worldwide, Carrefour is increasing the pace of the switch from HFC refrigeration to CO2 systems. Fitting CO2 transcritical packs in larger format stores such as Markets and Hypermarkets is proving a fruitful place to start. “By the end of 2015, we had 170 stores with hybrid systems and 90 stores with CO2 transcritical systems – these stores are mainly the biggest format,” Martini says.

Hydrocarbons – another member of the natural refrigerants family – can also be an effective solution for convenience stores. Martini believes hydrocarbons are a good solution for smaller plug-in systems, as well as commercial plug-in equipment, like chest freezers, and water loop systems.

Driving positive change

As a pioneer, Martini believes Carrefour has an important role to play in triggering change across the food and beverage retail sector. “The more of us there are, the better it is for everybody,” he insists.

“Why not work together, even if we’re competitors in other aspects? Regarding technologies, it’s good to exchange information between us. To work together to widen the use of natural refrigerants,” he argues.

This is a shortened version of the cover story from the third edition of Accelerate Europe magazine. To read the full story, please click here.

Author r744