CO2 ice rinks have been slow to reach the commercialisation phase, according to EKA – despite the technological capability having already existed for at least 20 years.

The first ice rink to use CO2 was installed in 1999 – using with CO2 as a secondary refrigerant and ammonia as the primary refrigerant – by Sulzer in Dornbirn, Austria. The first transcritical CO2 ice rink was installed in 2010 in St Gedeon in Canada, as a retrofit of an R22 system.

In 2002, the International Ice Hockey Association called for the adoption of CO2 as the primary refrigerant in ice rinks.

Moving in the right direction

“Today the number of CO2 ice rinks is growing rapidly,” Jörgen Rogstam, managing director of Energi & Kylanalys, told the Edinburgh audience. “There are now 25-30 CO2 ice rink centres in the world.”

The majority of these (20-25) are in North America, approximately 20 of which are in Canada (mostly in Quebec) and three in Alaska, USA.

Europe has been struggling to keep up the pace. EKA installed the continent’s first CO2 transcritical ice rink in Gimo, Sweden in 2014. “There are now five in operation in Sweden, two more later this season, one project underway in Norway, and interest in Finland and the UK,” according to Rogstam.

CO2 serves both heating and cooling needs

“CO2 can provide more heat at higher temperatures compared with other refrigerants,” he said. Compared with ammonia, which can only provide 15% of heat above 35°C, CO2 can deliver 60% above 35°C.

“CO2 has favourable properties for heat reclaim,” said Rogstam. CO2 systems installed for ice rinks can be used to heat adjacent sports facilities as well. EKA argue that CO2 is the ideal choice for integrated systems that deliver the below needs:

The system in Gimo, Sweden was not just able to cool the ice rink but also heat a swimming pool in an adjacent facility via a secondary loop system. “It is self-sufficient with heat,” Rogstam said.  

EKA is now seeking to improve the geothermal storage control, and to build more CO2 ice rinks in Europe.

The 12th IIR Gustav Lorentzen Natural Working Fluids Conference– held in Edinburgh on 21-24 August – brought together HVAC&R industry experts, academics, students and other interested parties to discuss the latest technological and policy developments driving wider uptake of natural refrigerants such as hydrocarbons, CO2 and ammonia worldwide.

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