R744.com: In 2011, you started the project “IESCO2” at the Valencia Rascanya secondary school to develop CO2 cascade units and provide training sessions for teachers. Regarding the use of CO2 as a refrigerant how do you think the industry has changed since then?
Nacho Fandos: An increased interest in CO2, new technologies and areas of application have resulted in a wider and more comprehensive offering of training. However, this topic is not included as a regular subject in schools. At the institutional level, there have not been significant developments.
From a market perspective, subcritical CO2 cascade systems are now a reality, and CO2 transcritical (TC) systems for industrial and commercial applications are also becoming more popular. Steam distribution systems may be a solution for some sectors. I think that pumped CO2 systems are also a very interesting solution; I only know of a few installations though.
R744.com: Last year you organised the first Spanish CO2 training course for the Aviclima association (association of refrigerating installers in Valencia), which will take place again this year. Have you noticed a change in the level of interest / demand of technicians who attended in 2014?
Ramón Cabello: In 2014, we successfully ran a training course that was specifically catered for refrigeration technicians, food retailer sector in particular, and focused on subcritical CO2 systems. All available places were booked out.
Due to the positive response and increased interest in the topic, we have decided to modify the format and offer two courses this year. The first one took place in January and was designed for maintenance professionals of HVAC installations. It was more subcritical CO2 system-oriented and included new features such as plate heat exchangers and micro-channel condenser technology sessions. The second course, which will start after summer, will focus on CO2 TC applications and secondary systems.
However, we need to wait to see if the interest in CO2 is here to stay or if it is only temporary.
R744.com: Can students also visit facilities as a part of the training?
Fandos: In the frame of the IESCO2 project, we have developed and commissioned four cascade systems at four secondary schools and the Universitat Jaume I (Castellón, Spain). These installations, which are monitored and running, provide us with valuable information and are open to all students. In addition, some companies also allow us to visit their facilities, but in these cases we don’t have access to real operating data.
R744.com: We often hear that of the main barriers to promoting CO2 technology is the lack of training. How do you see the scenario in Spain?
Cabello: The first step is to train teachers so that they can share their knowledge with current and future professionals. In Spain, training can be offered through secondary schools or continuing vocational training programs. While secondary schools depend on education authorities and aim to train future professionals, continuing vocational training programs, which can be provided by both public and private bodies, target current HVAC&R technicians that want to further develop their skills. These centres don’t usually have appropriate installations and have difficulties accessing innovative projects. It is necessary to facilitate the access of these courses as well as offer flexible schedules.
We hope that the implementation of the new EU-517/2014 regulation at a national level will help to correct the shortcomings of the current training systems.
R744.com: Are other technologies such as TC CO2 and CO2/ NH3 systems covered in the training?
Fandos: As I mentioned before, this year I will organise a specific course for CO2 TC and secondary systems for commercial refrigeration applications. In addition, the Spanish Ministry of Education has granted us with a new project this year to provide four more secondary schools with TC CO2 systems. I hope this will promote the education and training both for current and future professionals in the field of CO2.
At this moment, we don’t have the necessary facilities to test NH3 / CO2 cascade systems. However, I am currently evaluating the possibility to offer practical training at external facilities that comply with security requirements. This solution could also work for cascade and/ or pumped CO2 systems employing hydrocarbons.
R744.com: Do you include in your training information about technologies for improving the efficiency of CO2 TC, like adiabatic cooling, parallel compression, ejectors etc.?
Cabello: They are covered but only at the theoretical level, as we don’t currently have any installations with these new technologies.
R744.com: Do you think that CO2 TC will gain popularity or that CO2 cascade systems will remain the most common solution in Spain in the coming years?
Fandos: Although they involve a significant financial investment, both solutions are suitable for medium and low temperature applications. Subcritical CO2 systems don’t depend on external environment conditions whilst the performance of CO2 TC systems suffer in warm climates, requiring facilities to add additional technologies to improve results. Pumped CO2 systems are also a good solution in the medium/long term.
R744.com: What is the percentage of students that get a job after completing your training?
Cabello: In continuing vocational training, students are indeed employed already. However, at secondary schools, 100% of students get a job after completing the training because companies such as Frost-Trol or FACSA are seeking employees with these particular skills. We work on meeting their needs by implementing different activities, including the expansion of our training facilities at the Llombai secondary school (Burriana, Castellón) with CO2 TC and subcritical systems.
R744.com: You are also working on the pumped CO2 field. Can you please tell us about one of your latest projects?
Fandos: In 2014, we developed an innovative pumped CO2 installation prototype for low/ medium load systems. This year we have continued studying the application of this system so it can be used in systems with higher load; we are planning to test it in real installations next year. In the coming years, we would like to work on propane and pumped CO2 systems in order to achieve a high efficiency installation in warm climates using 100% natural refrigerants.
This work is possible thanks to IES Llombai, companies such as Pecomark, Frost-Trol, Instalaciones Martorell and the Thermal Engineering Research Group of the Jaume I University of Castellón.