Lawson, a major Japanese convenience store chain that is a leading user of transcritical CO2 systems in Japan, has installed its first transcritical CO2 and hydrocarbon-based cooling systems at one of its stores in China, a Shanghai outlet that opened on January 15.

While some large-format supermarkets have installed transcritical CO2 rack systems in China in the past few years, this is thought to be the first transcritical CO2 system deployed in a small-format food retail store in the country.

Lawson, which operates 14,000 convenience stores, is considered the world’s leading adopter of small-format transcritical CO2 outdoor condensing units, with 3,700 stores expected to use this equipment in Japan by February 2020.

The use of transcritical CO2 and hydrocarbon equipment at the Shanghai store is driven by Lawson’s “commitment to fulfilling its corporate responsibility towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals — specifically goal 7 (affordable and clean energy) and goal 13 (climate action),” said Masaaki Kanbe, Director of Construction Headquarters for Lawson (China) Holdings.

In China, Lawson operates close to 2,000 stores spread across Beijing, Dalian, Shanghai, Chongqing, Wuhan and Hefei. More than half of these stores are located in Shanghai.

The new Shanghai store uses one Panasonic 2HP CO2 outdoor condensing unit to supply cooling for one medi- um-temperature CO2 display case inside the store. In addition, the store employs one propane-based plug-in ice cream cabinet. Kanbe said Lawson expects to see about 16% better energy performance, compared to conventional systems.

Installation went “smoothly and without any problems,” said Kanbe, who credited prior and on-site technical guidance with making sure the installation of the CO2 system went well. The challenge going forward, however, is “whether or not construction can be handled without technical guidance,” he said.

Lawson’s Continuing NatRef R&D

While Lawson is continuing to expand the number of stores that use transcritical CO2 technology, the company is also actively testing hydrocarbon-based equipment and transcritical CO2 equipment in warmer climates.

Lawson recently opened its first 100% natural refrigerants store in Japan at Keio University where, along with Panasonic-supplied CO2 equipment, the store uses hydrocarbon plug-in upright and under-counter equipment provided by Japanese OEM Hoshizaki. (See “Japanese C-Store Chain Lawson Opens First 100% NatRefs Store,” Accelerate Magazine, January 2020.)

While CO2 systems have often been seen as less efficient in warm climates, Lawson has observed positive results at its Alfamidi stores in Indonesia.

During last year’s ATMOsphere China conference in April (organized by shecco, publisher of Accelerate Magazine), Kanbe described Lawson’s efforts to adopt natural refrigerants at 12 Alfamidi stores in Indonesia in 2015 and 2016. “All 12 stores attained the target based on yearly total power consumption of existing Alfamidi stores (a reduction of 30%-49%),” according to Kanbe’s presentation. The equipment used by a comparison store was not specified.

Outside of Japan, China and Indonesia, Lawson operates stores in Hawaii, the Philippines, and Thailand.

This article originally appeared in the February 2020 issue of Accelerate Magazine.

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