The Land of the Long White Cloud has long been lauded for embracing change and new technology, with its reputation for environmental activism dating back to campaigns in the 1970s opposing nuclear weapons testing in the Pacific.
That resolve was clear at the International Institute of Refrigeration’s annual conference promoting sustainability in the cold chain, which – as IIR organising committee chair Judith Evans outlined during her opening speech – accounts four 17% of the globe’s energy consumption.
What was also apparent amid the domestic and international HVAC&R fraternity at the event was the need for New Zealand to embrace the industry’s next chapter by phasing down harmful HFCs and meeting the nation’s commitments to the Montreal Protocol.
Held across three days (6-8 April) and organised by New Zealand’s Institute of Refrigeration, Heating & Air Conditioning Engineers (IRHACE), the event comprised of a seminar component, welcoming a host of international delegates and speakers, and the trade exhibition dimension.
The CO2 is greener on the other side
Like in Europe, New Zealand’s moderate climate, initiatives by leading retailers and an Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) implemented in 2013 have all helped shape a bright future for CO2 refrigeration.
As Heatcraft’s Mark Meyer asserted on the show floor, the ETS in New Zealand has helped accelerate the price of conventional HFC refrigerants by a factor of three in the past 12 months alone.
“There’s no question about it that the ETS is driving CO2 developments. They’re saying that it might double again in the next 3-12 months, so it’s happening quicker than people expected,”
HFCs like R404A cost end users $20/kg under the ETS in New Zealand, putting the squeeze on harmful synthetics and driving the market towards natural refrigerants.
Heatcraft and GEA have worked with McAlpine Hussmann (Hussmann’s Australian and New Zealand subsidiary) to supply CO2 racks, evaporators, compressors and condensers to major retailers Foodstuffs (Pak’nSave, New World and Four Square) in New Zealand, as well as Woolworths and Wesfarmers in Australia.
Retailer Pak‘nSave has been entirely committed to CO2 refrigeration for close to two years and has completed five CO2 trancritical stores, with more to come.
Hussmann’s Technical Director Brian Rees said that his company had worked on 10 CO2 transcritical stores and that the major retailers were really looking at R744 as the solution. Hussmann works closely with Swedish manufacturer Green & Cool and supplies CO2 showcases and racks. It is also a contractor and installer throughout New Zealand.
Heatcraft is currently conducting total cost of ownership studies with the major chains in Australia to bring its own CO2 transcritical system to the market there and in New Zealand. The company’s commercial manager Brett Hedge said a prototype would be ready in time to be showcased at ARBS and ATMOsphere Australia in Melbourne in May 2016.
During one of the earlier seminars Neal Lawrence from the University of Illinois introduced studies of a two-stage recirculation cycle ejector that eliminates evaporator dryout, hence improving overall performance. Neal said it posed a better alternative for varying ambient conditions and smaller applications like R744 glass door merchandise, as compared to standard ejectors built for design conditions.
During the Energy Efficiency seminar Klaas Visser of KAV Consulting presented a CO2 solution to meet stricter regulations in New Zealand’s dairy industry that maintains milk temperature from the farm to the end of the cold chain.
“Subject to the evaluation of existing HFC systems, the watercooled subcritical CO2 refrigeration system (dual tank) for cold and warm chilled water can be implemented at moderate costs to existing HFC systems and save in the order of 39.3% annually,” he said. There are around 12,000 dairy farms in NZ, which, in total, consume approximately 3% of the nation’s electricity.
The IIR’s fourth annual conference held at Auckland’s Massey University
EcoChill leading hydrocarbon charge
EcoChill Managing Director Matthew Darby, who chairs the Climate Control Companies Association (CCCA), gave an insightful presentation on future prospects for the HVAC&R industry around the globe.
EcoChill is the preeminent producer and supplier of remote and plug-in hydrocarbon equipment in New Zealand and has also installed several CO2 transcritical systems, including the country’s first (in a New World supermarket in Devonport in 2012).
Announcing a partnership between New Zealand’s EECA (Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority) and Australia’s CCCA to recognise businesses working to improve training and energy efficiency standards and implement an installer accreditation scheme, Darby said advanced international regulation on HFCs would continue to put pressure on domestic imports.
Jane Gartshore from Cool Concerns, a trading, consultancy and technical support firm in the UK focused on the safe use, supreme efficiency (20% better) and low density (45% less) of CO2 compared to HFCs like R404A.
Used safely since the middle of the 1990s by major end users like Unilever and Waitrrose, Gartshore cited the latter’s commitment to the refrigerant in 100% of its stores.
Smaller industrial solutions
Rob Lamb, group sales and marketing director at Star Refrigeration, said there was growing demand globally from end users wanting “smaller plug-in” systems like the company’s low-charge solution.
Lamb said “the challenge from industry was to get those systems down to a smaller scale and face the challenges of [ammonia’s] toxicity.” Star’s low-charge systems range from 70kW to 350kW with less than 0.65kg/kW charge.
Brisbane-based Scantec has distributed its low-charge systems throughout Australia and is working on a project in China in 2016.
The systems use a slightly higher charge of around 1-1.2kg/kW of ammonia but retain similar efficiencies; 20-50% return on retrofits of conventional HFC plants.
The company’s managing director, Stefan Jensen, said there are huge opportunities for investors who have worked in Australia’s carbon-intensive mining industry to switch their focus to clean technology, with the relatively high initial capital cost of Scantec’s low-charge systems returned within 2-3 years.