Under its flagship F-Gas Exit Program, Düsseldorf-based METRO AG, one of the world’s largest retail and wholesale companies, will install new CO2 transcritical systems in stores in France, Spain, Germany and Austria in 2017.

METRO AG – also known as the METRO Group – operates over 2,000 stores in 29 countries – including more than 700 METRO stores and 284 Real hypermarkets (2016 figures). In addition to METRO/MAKRO Cash and Carry stores and Real hypermarkets, its sales divisions include Media Markt and Saturn, its commercial electronics stores.

F-gas phase-out programme on schedule

Cementing the Group’s reputation is its F-Gas Exit Program. A cornerstone of the firm’s emissions reduction strategy, it will see METRO AG phase out f-gases by 2030, replacing them with natural refrigerants in all store location worldwide – where it is technically feasible and economically reasonable to do so.

“We’re on track in our programme. Every year we’re executing it a little bit more,” Olaf Schulze, director, energy management, METRO AG, told Accelerate Europe magazine.

The policy in Europe is to fit every new and remodelled METRO Cash and Carry store with a CO2 transcritical system. “This year, we’re doing it in two stores in France, two stores in Spain, three or four in Germany, and one in Austria. Country-by-country, we’re changing stores – usually from R404A to CO2 transcritical systems,” Schulze said.

Under the F-Gas Exit Program, the METRO Group is fitting its stores with CO2 transcritical systems and its distribution centres with ammonia. For plug-in cabinets, it uses propane. Innovations like ejector technology are helping the Group to bring CO2 transcritical systems to warmer climates.

Of Real’s 284 hypermarkets, six are currently fitted with transcritical CO2 systems and 25 have subcritical CO2 systems – meaning around 10% of Real’s store portfolio uses natural refrigerants. “We would like to increase that,” Schulze said. The strategy is the same as METRO Cash and Carry – every new and remodelled Real hypermarket will use a CO2 transcritical system.

“We’re happy that we were already on track before Kigali. We have done our homework and we have a future-proof strategy.

Olaf Schulze, METRO AG

Synthetic refrigerants not in the picture

Russia and China have proved more difficult to crack. The METRO Group hoped to have installed CO2 transcritical systems in these countries by now, but thus far has only managed to fit a dozen or so subcritical systems. “We underestimated how difficult it would be to find local manufacturers,” Schulze admitted.

The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol has further convinced the METRO Group that adopting natural refrigerants is the way to go. “We’re happy that we were already on track before Kigali. We have done our homework and we have a future-proof strategy,” he said.

Synthetic refrigerants are not in the picture. “Pure HFOs are not our recommended technology – we have just one such store, in Brno, Czech Republic, with R1234ze. It was a pilot,” Schulze said.

The full version of this interview with METRO AG is in the spring edition of Accelerate Europe. It is part of a wider story on natural refrigerants in Europe’s biggest food retailers. Click here to read it .

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