R744: How do you see the market for natural refrigerants developing in your region and globally in 2016?
I still see a lot of growth in this market. I am a strong believer that there are a lot of customers who already have experience with natural refrigerants. They are more convinced, and that will help to convince new users about these solutions – typically transcritical CO2 applications.
R744: Which specific projects or new installations are you excited about for 2016?
We have two major data centre projects now that we are very excited about. We typically replace existing computer room air conditioning units with a perfect CO2 retrofit. We developed a CO2 rain-cycle, free cooling system that works without a compressor, using the advantages of CO2. As the system’s performance is very good, there is very big interest for this on the market. For larger systems, we are now delivering a 5 MW CO2 system and also another 2.5 MW freezer system.
We also have a big warehouse application in the province of Quebec – we have a big parallel pack system that can go up to 1,000 kW capacity each. They are operating very smoothly. Customers really like it.
R744: Are you considering other markets beyond North America?
We always keep our eyes open. Now there are a lot more players on the natural refrigerants market, and we go to the places where our innovative systems are welcomed. We offer innovative processes with high heat reclaim – for us, the heating side of the system is almost as important as the cooling side.
In North America, we can propose an integrated package – this means that our refrigeration system costs a little bit more, but you don’t have to buy the heating system. On other markets, you can only propose the refrigeration package, for example. After that, the heating specialist will propose the heating system; somebody else will propose the piping for the heating system. In our experience, it can be difficult to change people’s mind-set, to introduce our technology in a big supermarket chain, for example, that is already used to another technology and behaviour.
R744: Are there any expected developments in the training of technicians and experts working with natural refrigerants?
Up to now, we did the training on site. It has been very successful, but we know that there are many other contractors who are interested, who maybe want to move to CO2. We are thinking about launching a training class or session that will be open to any contractor, as we receive a lot of requests for this kind of training.
R744: Are there any expected policy changes in your region or globally that will have an impact on the natural refrigerant industry in 2016?
The SNAP [the Significant New Alternatives Policy Programme of the US Environmental Protection Agency] announced that some high-GWP HFCs and blends would be prohibited as alternatives in the US. SNAP already announced the de-listing of R507, R504 and HFC-134a. This will have a significant impact on the growth of natural refrigerants.
R744: Do you see any threats to your natural refrigerant business emerging?
In the US the big synthetic molecule producers understand that natural refrigerants, especially CO2, are not just a fashion. It’s there to stay. Now they use more aggressive publicity and market strategies, and the lobby of synthetic producers still has an influential voice in the US.
R744: Do you have any strategy to overcome this challenge?
We keep producing high-quality installations. This is the best way in which we can compete with them.