U.S. manufacturer M&M Carnot last month began building transcritical CO2 (R744) industrial systems at its new 25,000ft2 (2,323m2) factory space in Federalsburg, Maryland, as it responds to growing demand for CO2 refrigeration in North America.
The new leased factory space, across from its original facility in Federalsburg, is specifically for industrial transcritical CO2 systems, with another 25,000ft2 in a contiguous area in the offing.
During a visit to the new factory space in April, M&M Carnot was in the process of assembling a 40ft (12m)-long Aquilon industrial transcritical CO2 rack with a capacity of 500TR (1,758kW) at -10°F (-23°C) using large Dorin compressors. Two more similar units are scheduled in the next few months. In late April, M&M Carnot shipped from Canada a 600TR (2,110kW) Aquilon industrial transcritical CO2 rack – one of the largest in North America.
M&M Carnot was formed in July 2019 from the merger of M&M Refrigeration and Canadian manufacturer Carnot Refrigeration, based in Trois-Rivières, Quebec [Canada]. The natural refrigerant-focused company offers commercial and industrial transcritical CO2 as well as industrial ammonia/R717 (including low-charge) and industrial cascade (ammonia combined with CO2).
M&M Carnot’s Aquilon CO2 line started with data center units in Canada and now encompasses all transcritical CO2 products, including commercial, industrial, condensing units and chillers. The industrial line has gone through a soft launch over the past few years and is now ready for prime time. “We’re putting power behind the launch,” said John Miranda, Chief Sales Officer (CSO) of M&M Carnot.
Most commercial (supermarket and data centers) systems are and will be made in Trois-Rivières, while industrial ones will generally be handled in Federalsburg. However, the Aquilon industrial DS condensing unit will be built in Canada, as will ice rink systems.
M&M Carnot is also expanding its Trois-Rivières factory with planned 27,000ft2 (2,508m2) growth next January and then an additional 38,000ft2 (3,530m2) in the summer of 2024.
The company has designed its own controls for its industrial transcritical CO2 systems in addition to purchasing Washington-based Logix Controls for this application. These offer the “robustness” in sensors and pressure transducers that commercial CO2 controls lack, said Miranda. The industrial controls also offer “better protection” for compressors.
In January, M&M Carnot renewed the ATMO Approved natural refrigerants label from ATMOsphere, a global market accelerator of clean cooling and heating solutions, and publisher of R744.com.
On the cusp of the hockey stick
M&M Carnot’s direction has been shaped by the upsurge in demand for transcritical CO2 systems, in both the industrial and commercial sectors. “Today we’re on the cusp of the hockey stick – getting ready to really grow,” said Miranda.
“There is significant growth in both of our businesses [CO2 and ammonia],” said Jamie Young, COO of M&M Carnot. “Transcritical CO2 has been fully adopted in North America and has taken off. The traditional ammonia business is very stable but the low-charge packaged ammonia systems are also taking off.”
“Our [industrial] customers used to be scared of transcritical CO2,” added Young. “Now they’re scared to be left behind. They are seeing it adopted, and it’s not as scary as they thought.”
A similar sentiment was expressed by Dave Sholtis, CEO of M&M Carnot. “Today CO2 is accepted across North America. People are asking for it. Contractors are learning to work with stainless steel and are not afraid of it anymore.”
Sholtis also pointed out that private equity has found the cold-storage sector an exciting investment prospect, which is leading to more construction of facilities and opportunity for environmentally friendly refrigeration. “It’s exciting to see private equity get into this,” he said. “Some of these private equity companies are focused on sustainable products. They want their warehouses to be green. This is driving our business.”
M&M Carnot also sees the substantial opportunity in heat pumps and chillers with both CO2 and ammonia versions as the electrification of heating takes off.
Traditionally a “custom” shop, M&M Carnot will be employing more standardization and a “Lean Manufacturing” process in the next few months in Federalsburg to become more efficient. The company also plans to introduce automation to welding by the end of the year, eliminating about half of the manual welds, said Young.
Standardized assembly lines are also coming to the Trois-Rivières factory.
Going forward, M&M Carnot is going to need bigger compressors, like the 140HP models that are available in Europe, said Miranda. Two compressor racks are acceptable but four are “non-competitive.” Also needed: larger plate heat exchangers and larger bypass valves.
But the company is motivated by more than just its products, said Sholtis. “We have a mission and values. People come to work for us because they know we are doing something that is greater than making our shareholders happy or making our customers happy. It’s also benefitting our world – our kids and our grandkids.”
“It’s exciting to see private equity get into this.”Dave Sholtis, CEO, M&M Carnot