With CO2 already well established in Europe’s commercial refrigeration market, Italian multinational HVAC&R system manufacturer SCM Frigo is also turning its attention elsewhere: “We’re now developing the industrial segment,” Nicola Pignatelli, SCM Frigo’s managing director, told a special edition of Accelerate magazine in an exclusive interview.
In industrial refrigeration, CO2 faces competition from another natural refrigerant – ammonia. Does SCM Frigo intend to add ammonia equipment to its portfolio? “SCM Frigo used to make ammonia chillers. Today they’re made in Beijer Ref’s Dutch subsidiary SCM Ref BV,” Pignatelli says.
He is keen to highlight the rise of CO2 as a serious competitor to ammonia in industrial applications. “Today we’re doing plants of 2-3 MW with CO2 units, whereas until a few years ago this was absolutely just ammonia, in those capacities,” he says.
“We think the numbers will favour CO2 in future. We’re focusing on our CO2 business for now.”
‘Training helps improve our production process’
Confident in the future market prospects for CO2 transcritical, SCM Frigo has invested heavily in training, for both its own staff and its customer base. “This has helped us to improve our production process,” Pignatelli said.
In March 2018, SCM Frigo’s parent company Beijer Ref opened the Beijer Ref Academy. “We want to train people, to make CO2 easier to manage and the systems easier to build,” Pignatelli explains.
“We’re particularly training field engineers – the people who start up the systems out there in the field. The target is contractors and installers.”
SCM Frigo has also invested in training within the company, to readapt its production methods to CO2. “We’ve also taken on board experienced people, especially in servicing,” Pignatelli says.
“Today we’re doing plants of 2-3 MW with CO2 units, whereas until a few years ago this was absolutely just ammonia, in those capacities.”SCM Frigo Managing Director Nicola Pignatelli
CO2 ripe for growth in convenience stores
Europe is estimated to be home to 110,000-115,000 supermarkets, according to figures from sheccoBase, the market development arm of Accelerate publisher shecco. Most appear to be using HFCs.
Yet the commitment of major retailers such as Carrefour, METRO AG, Sainsbury’s and Ahold Delhaize to adopting natural refrigerants is helping to boost the market for CO2 in Europe’s commercial refrigeration sector. Today, sheccoBase estimates that there are around 16,000 supermarkets in Europe fitted with CO2 transcritical systems (October 2018 figures).
“Food retail remains a huge opportunity,” says Pignatelli. “We’ve only just started. It will continue to be our biggest market for at least the next three to four years,” he predicts.
The SCM Frigo boss highlights convenience stores as a promising future growth area for natural refrigerants in Europe. “In Europe, there are a huge number of smaller stores and convenience stores that still need to transition in the right direction because of the EU F-Gas Regulation,” Pignatelli says.