North America has long been a leader in the use of natural refrigerants in industrial refrigeration applications, with the majority of installations already utilising ammonia. But as the market for natural refrigerants evolves, even the industrial sector is looking to improve efficiency, reduce refrigerant charges, and overall implement more climate friendly technologies.
shecco’s latest publication, the GUIDE to Natural Refrigerants in North America – State of the Industry 2015 shows that natural refrigerants, particularly ammonia and CO2 are widely used in industrial applications from food storage to chemical processing, to construction and mining to air conditioning on the international space station. Sports facilities such as ice rinks and recreation centres are also increasingly employing natural refrigerants.
As the phase out of R22 continues and will come to an end in 2020, ammonia remains a clear choice for industrial refrigeration end users because of its low cost and superior efficiency. However, given anhydrous ammonia’s toxicity, the industry overall is putting an increasing amount of value on charge reduction, bringing many NH3/CO2 cascade systems to the market as well as the development of ‘next-generation’ low charge ammonia systems which utilise only a fraction of refrigerant per ton of refrigeration in comparison to traditional ammonia systems. The GUIDE estimates just fewer than 200 low-charge NH3 installations in Canada and around 20 in the United States.
The future for refrigerated warehouses is the packaged system.”Gerard Von Dohlen, President, Neward Refrigerated Warehouse
While most of Mayekawa’s end users employ ammonia in quick-freeze applications, closed ammonia-CO2 systems are being more widely used. Processors want to eliminate ammonia in the processing area and use CO2 there. The ammonia can then be isolated in the refrigeration room.”Bud Martinson, Sales Manager of the Freezer Division, Mayekawa
CO2 is also garnering a significant amount of attention as an industrial refrigerant, largely due to its efficiency on the low temperature side of systems and its nontoxic characteristics. Transcritical CO2 systems are being implemented in various applications from ice rinks to distribution centres. According to the GUIDE, the use of CO2 will continue to grow in the industrial refrigeration sector, with already more than 30 CO2 transcritical installations in Canada and around 10 in the U.S.
Hydrocarbons, particularly R1270, have also found a niche in industrial refrigeration applications. Though expected to be used to a lesser extent than NH3 and R744, R1270 proves both environmentally friendly and efficient as a primary refrigerant in applications such as fruit storage.
“I believe that each application must be analyzed on a stand-alone basis. There will be applications that are individually best-suited for CO2 transcritical, low-charge ammonia and cascade CO2/NH3 systems. However, I further believe that the cascade CO2/NH3 solution is and will be best for the larger cold storage and processing facilities, especially those having lower temperature requirements.” Chuck Toogood, VP Business Development, M&M Refrigeration
Energy incentives driving adoption of natural refrigerant-based solutions
As phase-out deadlines approach, more companies are looking to ensure industrial refrigeration systems meet environmental standards ahead of schedule. In the U.S., in particular, federal and state subsidies are helping businesses to lower energy costs and consumption. Energy utilities are also incentivising the installation of more energy efficient cooling systems to reduce peak grid demand.
We’re working with manufacturers, inventors and customers to look at the new technology and how it can help with your business. We’re trying to improve the adoption curve for new technology.”Paul Delaney, Senior Engineer, Southern California Edison