Japanese OEM Mayekawa, known for its flagship NewTon NH3/CO2 industrial cooling systems, is stepping up its focus on its newly developed CO2 industrial condensing unit, dubbed “Copel.”

“We see this year and next year as a period to expand our product lineup and improve our service network,” said Akito Machida, Executive Officer for Mayekawa’s Technology Planning Division, In a recent interview with Accelerate Japan (published by shecco, publisher of R744.com).

“Compared to our competitors, we are latecomers in the sales of CO2 refrigeration systems,” added Machida.

At the FOOMA Japan 2021 exhibition held in Nagoya, Japan, in June. Mayekawa exhibited Copel for the first time.

“Internally, we have been developing the technology from a very early stage, while keeping a close eye on performance in installation environments as well as the overall market situation,” said Machida.

Machida added that while sales of Mayekawa’s flagship NewTon NH3/CO2 cooling systems continue to grow steadily, the company is seeing growing demand for CO2 transcritical systems from certain end users who had specific requirements and were moving away from synthetic refrigerants.

Machida said that it developed its Copel line of CO2 systems in response to requests from these end users.

Mayekawa’s Copel CO2 system comes in three types: a new “medium-sized” Copel version released this year, as well as a Copel-F model aimed at cold storage facilities and frozen food processing and a Copel-C model aimed at refrigerated warehouses.

At the FOOMA Japan 2021 exhibition, the mid-sized Copel unit was exhibited alongside Mayekawa’s “Thermo Jack Freezer” system used in frozen food processing factories.

While the mid-sized Copel has been developed with cooling capacities to match applications in frozen food processing, the system can also be used in mid-sized refrigerated warehouses, Machida said.

40 units sold

Mayekawa says that around 40 units of its Copel CO2 condensing unit have been sold as of March 2021.

The first few of these sales, according to Machida, were to end users in the northern regions of Japan where average yearly temperatures are relatively low. Machida said that while energy performance was an important concern among these end users, they often prioritized operational stability and safety, in addition to having the same cooling capacities as conventional R22 and R404A equipment.

Regarding stability, Machida said, the Copel performed well during August 2020 when the country experienced a heat wave bringing average temperatures above 30°C (86° F) in these northern regions, with some areas reaching 36°C (96°F) and higher. These weather conditions were higher than expected for end users in the region.

For one end user in Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s main islands, there were concerns regarding operation of the Copel during this time; however, Machida said that “there were no problems with the equipment, even in these unexpected circumstances.” Machida added that the company has service bases throughout the country and is ready to go directly to a site in case of any equipment issues.

Regarding this time, Machida said that he feels “as a prerequisite for development, the equipment must be able to operate stably even in a harsh temperature environment,” and that he believes “the degree of perfection of the product will be further enhanced by finding out the issues through field experience.”

Expanding to Air Conditioning

Machida said that there has been a great deal of attention turning towards the natural refrigerant market in Japan, particularly following the country’s declaration of its goal to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 in October of last year. To this end, Mayekawa is currently focused on continuing research and development in applications such as process heating for food factories as well as factory air conditioning, where “the use of natural refrigerants has not yet progressed.”

Ammonia chillers and heat pumps have already been introduced in some air conditioning applications, Machida acknowledges. However, he noted that “most end users are hesitant to use ammonia refrigerant in air conditioners due to safety concerns such as toxicity and flammability.”

Machida said that Mayekawa has “received requests from end users and other related parties for the development of a heat pump that can be used in the air conditioning temperature range.” In response, Mayekawa is closely considering the use of natural refrigerants in heat pumps, such as ammonia and hydrocarbons specifically for air conditioning and process heating in factories.

Chugai Pharmaceutical, a Japanese drug manufacturer, is aiming to eliminate 100% of its freon use and convert to natural refrigerants in all of its operations, including air conditioning, by 2030, said Shigehiro Yamada, General Manager in the Sustainability Promotion Department of Chugai Pharmaceutical, during the ATMOsphere Japan 2021 conference held online on February 15 and organized by shecco.

Machida said that Mayekawa aims to “prepare and provide many options for companies that have such a business policy.”

At this time, Mayekawa offers its Unimo CO2 heat pumps, but Machida said the company has also been “developing heat pumps that use hydrocarbons for over 10 years.” Machida said that “once legal restrictions on flammable gases are relaxed, Mayekawa hopes to supply hydrocarbon products with lower costs and higher efficiency.”

Machida stressed that Mayekawa, as a manufacturer of natural refrigerant equipment, has a responsibility to prioritize safety, energy efficiency, and CO2 emission reduction.