January brought big developments for the natural refrigerants industry, both on the policy and commercial fronts. A vote in the European Parliament put the bloc one step away from phasing out HFCs, while over in the United States, ALDI US announced a new sustainability measure centered on natural refrigerants. 

These positive strides were accompanied by worrying news from the scientific community linking HFOs to R23 (trifluoromethane), an immensely powerful greenhouse gas. 

These were three of the five most-read stories on R744.com in January. The full list is below. 

ozone hole
NASA Earth Observatory Image for November 2, 2023, showing Antarctic ozone hole; the 2023 Antarctic ozone hole reached its maximum size on September 21. NASA Earth Observatory image by Lauren Dauphin, using data courtesy of NASA Ozone Watch and GEOS-5 data from the Global Modeling and Assimilation Office at NASA GSFC. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

No 1: Study Links Three HFOs to Super-Pollutant R23 via Ozone Reaction in Atmosphere 

A study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) found that three HFOs, including HFO-1234ze(E), react with ozone in the atmosphere to produce R23 (trifluoromethane), which has a 100-year GWP of 14,800. HFO-1234ze(E) is commonly used as a refrigerant and has a 100-year GWP of under 1, but, according to the study’s authors, its GWP is 14 when its R23 production is taken into account. In addition to HFO-1234ze(E), HFO-1336mzz(Z) and HFO-1243zf also reacted with ozone to produce R23. 

Read the full story. 

European Parliament EU F-gas Regulation
The hemicycle of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. Credit: Wikipedia

No 2: European Parliament Approves Rule to Phase Out HFCs in EU by 2050 

The European Parliament voted to approve the update of the EU F-gas Regulation, including a phase out of HFCs by 2050 across the bloc, with 457 votes in favor, 92 against and 32 abstentions. The new rule sets specific phase-out dates for f-gases in domestic refrigeration, air conditioning, heat pumps and other sectors where alternatives are “technologically and ecologically feasible.” With approval by the Parliament, the rule was sent to the Council of the EU for a final vote before becoming law. (The Council has since voted to approve the update.) 

“Getting rid of these super greenhouse gases will send a clear message to the market that it’s time to switch to greener alternatives,” said Bas Eickhout, a Dutch Member of the European Parliament for the Greens/European Free Alliance and a leading negotiator on the F-gas Regulation, in a Greens/EFA press release. 

Read the full story. 

Snow gathered on a bank of evaporators for a 1.8MW (511TR) CO2 heat pump in Jerslev, Denmark. (Source: Fenagy)
Snow gathered on a bank of evaporators for a 1.8MW (511TR) CO2 heat pump in Jerslev, Denmark. (Source: Fenagy)

No 3: Glycol Defrost Seen as Benefiting Industrial CO2 Heat Pumps 

Operators of industrial air-source CO2 (R744) heat pumps can benefit from glycol defrost, according to Kim Christensen, Managing Director of Danish heat pump manufacturer Fenagy. He told R744.com that the benefits include enhanced system efficiency, the ability to defrost when a heat pump isn’t running, and safe and reliable operation under “all circumstances.” 

“Efficient defrosting of energy collectors and evaporators for industrial air-to-water heat pumps is essential for their stable and economical operation for applications like district heating,” said Christensen. 

Read the full story. 

The transcritical CO2 system’s coolers outside the METRO wholesale store in Belgrade. (Source: METRO)
The transcritical CO2 system’s coolers outside the METRO wholesale store in Belgrade. (Source: METRO)

No 4: METRO Rolls Out First Transcritical CO2 Installation in Serbia 

German international food wholesaler METRO has installed its first transcritical CO2 refrigeration system in Serbia at its flagship store in Belgrade. Olaf Schulze, Director of Energy Management and Real Estate Sustainability at METRO, said the project was completed in November 2023 by Carrier Commercial Refrigeration. Carrier provided and installed the system, which has 78kW (22.2TR) of low-temperature and 454kW (129TR) of medium-temperature capacity. 

Read the full story. 

The exterior of an ALDI store in Chicago. ALDI US will use natural refrigerants in all stores by 2035.
An ALDI store in Chicago. Source: ALDI US

No 5: All ALDI US Stores Will Transition to Natural Refrigerants by 2035 

ALDI US has made it official company policy that all of its stores will use natural refrigerants by 2035, marking the first time a major U.S. supermarket chain has made such a commitment. ALDI said it will employ both CO2 and R290 (propane) systems in its stores. More than 600 ALDI US stores already feature transcritical CO2 systems, with around 10 using self-contained propane cases. In a letter accompanying the announcement, ALDI US CEO Jason Hart said the company’s existing use of natural refrigerants saves it nearly 60% of potential carbon emissions per year. 

Read the full story.