ATMOsphere, publisher of and organizer of the ATMOsphere (ATMO) America Summit 2023, announced the winners of the ATMO Awards/North America during a ceremony on June 12 at the Summit in Washington, D.C.

The awards honor excellence in the development and implementation of natural refrigerant-based HVAC&R systems. Awards were given in four categories:  

  • Innovation of the Year, to Energy Recovery’s PX G1300 pressure exchange; runners-up were OLAB’s Series Revolution stainless-steel flanged ball valve CO2 ball valve, and Danfoss’s Heat Recovery Unit (HRU).
  • Best in Sector/Retail, to ALDI US
  • Best in Sector/Industrial, to Hydro-Québec
  • Person of the Year, to the late Pega Hrnjak

The Best in Sector and Innovation of the Year awards were based on industry nominations and other criteria. The Best in Sector awards and the Person of the Year were selected by ATMOsphere, which also selected a short list of Innovation of the Year product finalists. Online voting leading up to and at ATMO America determined the winner of the Innovation of the Year award. 

Innovation of the Year

The Innovation of the Year is given to the company that has produced a natural refrigerant-based product that has had, or is expected to have, a significant impact on the market.

The Innovation of the Year for 2023, Energy Recovery’s the PX G1300 pressure exchanger, is designed to improve the efficiency of transcritical CO2 (R744) refrigeration systems. Accepting the award was KC Chen, Vice President of CO2 for Energy Recovery.

The pressure exchanger:

  • Harnesses the high-pressure CO2 fluid (liquid, gas or supercritical) coming from the gas cooler to increase the pressure of low-pressure suction gas coming from the evaporator and flash gas coming from the receiver.
  • Returns the higher-pressure gas to the gas cooler instead of to the compressors, reducing the work required of the compressors.
  • When operating in ambient temperatures above 40°C (104°F), an Italian supermarket using the PX G1300 pressure exchanger realized more than 30% efficiency improvements in its Epta CO2 refrigeration system compared to a standard CO2 booster system.

Best in Sector Awards

The Best in Sector awards are given to end users who have done the most to advance adoption of natural refrigerant-based systems.

ALDI US, Best in Sector/Retail 2023 winner, has been the leading user of transcritical CO2 systems in the U.S. for several years.

This has been manifested in a number of ways:

  • In 2022, ALDI US was the recipient of the GreenChill Store Certification Excellence Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as the food retailer with the most GreenChill-certified stores in the previous year (July 1, 2021–June 30, 2022). GreenChill-certified stores must meet criteria for refrigeration set by the EPA. It was the fourth consecutive year ALDI has received this award. ALDI US certified 505 stores at the platinum (highest) level – the largest number of platinum-level stores certified in one year by any company in GreenChill’s history.
  • According to its 2022 sustainability progress report, nearly 500 of ALDI US stores used CO2 as the primary refrigerant, accounting for most of the GreenChill certified stores.
  • Over 100 more ALDI US stores were planning to apply for their first certifications by the end of 2022; this could bring the total number of certified ALDI stores across the country to nearly 610.
  • ALDI US is not deterred by warm climate in installing CO2 refrigeration, with a store in Mobile, Alabama.

Canadian utility Hydro-Québec, Best in Sector/Industrial 2023 winner, co-developed with Vilter (now part of Copeland) an eco-friendly water-to-water CO2-based heat pump solution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve energy efficiency.

  • This is an alternative electrification solution to fossil fuels for generating space and domestic hot water for large commercial buildings, including district heating.
  • The heat pump is capable of developing simultaneously up to 1.7MW heating capacity and 1.3MW cooling capacity per compressor, with a combined COP up to 6.4.
  • Vilter’s single-screw technology is one of the world’s largest CO2 transcritical compressors.
  • The heat pump unit combined with thermal energy storage enables grid flexibility and a smart electrification of buildings and processes.
  • The demonstration project reached 12,000+ hours of operation.  Hydro-Québec has installed the system in a building in the field and it is commercially available. The utility will be offering incentive programs for other industrial end users to install it.

Person of the Year

The Person of the Year Award honors a single individual who has done the most to advance the adoption of natural refrigerant technology in HVAC&R applications in North America.

The Person of the Year 2023, Predrag (Pega) Hrnjak, who passed away last August, was a legendary pioneer in natural refrigerants research and innovation. Accepting the award was his widow, Ivana Bodulic.

Hrnjak was Founder of Creative Thermal Solutions (CTS), his research and consulting business in Urbana, Illinois (U.S.) He was also a Research Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he was also Director of the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Center.

Among his many awards, he was the recipient In 2011 of the prestigious Gustav Lorentzen Prize at the International Congress of Refrigeration in Prague, Czech Republic.

He helped to advance CO2 refrigeration with presentations and papers on virtually every technical aspect of CO2 technology, including:

  • The effects of oil on transcritical CO2 systems
  • Ejectors in CO2 air conditioners
  • Heat transfer and pressure drop in CO2 heat exchangers
  • Flash-gas bypass for improving transcritical CO2
  • Control strategies for transcritical CO2
  • CO2 mobile air conditioning systems
  • CO2 heat pump producing both cooling and heating for electric cars
  • CO2 heat pump water heaters

And he made major contributions with ammonia (R717), too, notably the development of microchannel heat exchangers that dramatically reduce the charge.