Sainsbury’s, a major U.K.-based grocer that operates 629 supermarkets and 770 convenience stores, has more than 200 stores fully running on CO2 refrigeration. That makes it one of the leaders globally in retail implementation of CO2 Accelerate America reports.
“In 2009, we took a bold decision to go with natural refrigerants to ensure that future installations were protected from the potential impact of using synthetics,” said Paul Crewe, head of sustainability, energy, engineering and environment at Sainsbury’s, during a webinar last month sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s GreenChill Partnership.
The webinar was titled, ‘Efforts to reduce refrigerant emissions through the Consumer Goods Forum’, of which Sainsbury’s is a member and co-chairs the refrigeration working group.
“Ultimately, if you have an appetite for it, you can absolutely successfully transition to natural refrigerants – we’ve proved it.”Paul Crewe, Sainsbury’s
Sainsbury’s has opted for CO2 as its natural refrigerant of choice, and has deployed pump, cascade and transcritical booster systems. “They are all efficient, all operating and all doing extremely well,” said Crewe. The chain considered ammonia, but chose to employ it only on the industrial side; hydrocarbons remain a possibility.
Crewe clarified Sainsbury’s motivations for using natural refrigerants. “Please don’t think that I am talking about refrigeration specifically from the ‘doing-the-right-thing-for-the-planet’ perspective,” he said. “Of course, that is important, but my role is to make sure that commercial sustainability is at the forefront.”
CO2: A worthy investment
“This means is that while trying to do the right thing, we also need to make this a very important part of running our business by reducing costs and spending our capital investments in the right places.”
CO2 has, in fact, proven its worth as an investment. “We have got to a position where the refrigeration installation is cost-neutral, “said Crewe. “This means that we have the equivalent of an HFC system in value for a CO2 system.”
On top of that, the CO2 system is saving Sainsbury’s energy. “We’ve experienced about 50% energy reduction,” Crewe said. “These systems are the highest performing solution we have in supermarkets.”
This translates to 330,000 metric tons of CO2-equivalent emissions, enough to light 1.7 million domestic houses per year. Another big cost-saving advantage of CO2 systems, added Crewe, is heat reclaim.
Crewe said that initial concerns Sainsbury’s had about CO2 – such as lack of knowledge about the gas, high pressures, the availability of skilled technicians, and moisture control – have been overcome very quickly.
“Our experience has been that our concerns and the myths around CO 2 have been dispelled,” he said. “Technology has grown immensely. And we ensured that the supply chain was ready to support our transition. It was very easy to train the technicians, as the system is essentially the same [as HFC models].”
“This has become a natural choice for us. It is now a part of our DNA.”
Sainsbury’s employs CO2 refrigeration in different climates as well. “CO2 absolutely does work in warmer climates,” Crewe said. “We’ve seen systems with enhanced booster solutions, parallel compression, and ejectors work safely, comfortably and easily.”
According to Crewe, more companies have entered the market with natural refrigerant solutions, and there are more unique system designs. “Ultimately, if you have an appetite for it, you can absolutely successfully transition to natural refrigerants – we’ve proved it.”
To read the full version of this story in the March issue of Accelerate America, please click here.