In this latest of our NEXT Series of articles, CO2 system manufacturers and component suppliers – along with end users – expressed confidence to this website that CO2 would increase in industrial applications, mainly with help from another natural refrigerant – ammonia. 

“We see an increased interest in the [industrial] market in general,” Brandon J. France, director of packaged refrigeration systems at Stellar, a U.S. contractor, told R744.com. “The acceptance of CO2 will increase as people become more comfortable with the technology.”

European system manufacturer Tecnofreddo argues that CO2 industrial systems are becoming more popular for many reasons. “New technological developments in components have allowed CO2 transcritical systems to reach greater capacities,” said Manuela Rallo, sales area manager at Tecnofreddo. Falling system prices and improved safety are also making CO2 an attractive option for the industrial refrigeration market, Rallo argued.

“For all these reasons, Tecnofreddo has decided to [develop] a new series of transcritical units [for industrial applications],” Rallo said.

CO2-ammonia: A good combination

Despite the growing popularity of CO2 for industrial applications, many end users still prefer to combine it with ammonia. 

Campbell Soup is a case in point. It will “phase out our R22 equipment and utilise either CO2 or ammonia/glycol systems,” according to Bing Cheng, senior manager (utilities, environmental and sustainability programs) at Campbell Soup.

“We commissioned three new CO2 systems in 2018 (two ammonia-CO2 cascade systems and one transcritical CO2 system) and will commission one cascade ammonia-CO2 system for a freezer in Denver, Pennsylvania this spring.

Bing Cheng, Campbell Soup

“We commissioned three new CO2 systems in 2018 (two ammonia-CO2 cascade systems and one transcritical CO2 system) and will commission one cascade ammonia-CO2 system for a freezer in Denver, Pennsylvania this spring,” Cheng said.

Frialsa, a Mexican cold-storage operator, also believes in the combination of ammonia-CO2. “At the end of 2018, Frialsa started up a new distribution centre in Tijuana, Mexico, with a 700 TR NH3-CO2 cascade system,” said Ricardo Garcia, director of engineering and projects at Frialsa.

“In February 2019 we will start up a distribution centre in Lima, Peru, using a 640 TR NH3-CO2 system. Frialsa will also have expansions at Mexico facilities during the rest of the year with natural refrigerants,” Garcia said.

“In February 2019 we will start up a distribution centre in Lima, Peru, using a 640 TR NH3-CO2 system.

Ricardo Garcia, Frialsa

Other cold storage operators in the United States are looking to go the same way. Mike Lynch, vice-president of engineering, U.S. Cold Storage, said, “in 2018, USCS utilised the following: 61% anhydrous ammonia and 39% carbon dioxide. I expect this ratio to remain relatively stable through 2019, with one new facility and an expansion of three existing facilities”.

Whether end users and manufacturers opt for ammonia or CO2, natural refrigerants seem likely to continue their upward trajectory in industrial applications.

“We still expect a high share of plans with natural refrigerants in Switzerland, which has been at a high level for several years,” argued Beat Schmutz, CEO of Swiss manufacturer SSP Kälteplaner. Schmutz puts this down to, “the legal framework and the long-term environmental concerns of customers and operators”.

The NEXT Series takes an annual look at the key market, policy and technology drivers likely to influence natural refrigerant uptake. For updates on these and other key policy developments over the course of the year, sign up to our newsletter.

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