Sergio Girotto has worked tirelessly to bring CO2 to new areas of application. Accelerate Europe sits down with the 2018 Person of the Year to find out what’s next for the enEX president – and the HVAC&R industry.

Of all his achievements, Sergio Girotto is perhaps best known for installing the first-ever CO2 transcritical system in a large supermarket, in 2001 – a natural refrigerants adventure that began in 1996, when he asked Italian manufacturer Dorin to produce a CO2 compressor.

In February 2018 Girotto added another string to his bow. His company, enEX, provided the system for the first CO2 transcritical supermarket in the Middle East.

And on 20 November, this quiet and unassuming giant of the HVAC&R sector reached a new landmark when he was crowned Accelerate Europe Person of the Year 2018.

Girotto is characteristically modest in discussing his newfound status. “It’s an honour to be Person of the Year,” he says. “What I appreciate most is that I’ve been approached by several of my competitors who said, ‘I’d choose you too’. I think this is the best recognition a professional can have.”

A mechanical engineer by training, Girotto has enjoyed over two decades working for companies in the refrigeration sector, in roles including R&D, design, production and after-sales service.

In his long HVAC&R career, what’s he most proud of? “Being a protagonist in the development of CO2,” replies Girotto with no hesitation.

Between 1988 and 1991, Norwegian researcher Gustav Lorentzen showed how the long-dormant refrigerant CO2 could be used again as an active working fluid.

Girotto is quick to recognise Lorentzen’s brilliance. “Professor Lorentzen had the intuition that CO2 could become a major part of the answer to environmental issues in our sector,” he says.

The crucial next step was to bring CO2-based HVAC&R solutions to market, or as Girotto puts it, “moving from scientific papers into real systems”. “I’m grateful for all the companies that have participated in the reinvention of a technology,” he says.

Girotto himself has patented a number of refrigeration products and system designs. Among his personal favourites is a liquid ejector for overfeeding evaporators (see ‘The restless innovator’, Accelerate Italy, February 2018).

He founded his own company, enEX, in 2004. Ever since, the firm has focused solely on CO2. Asked what he has enjoyed most about his time there, Girotto replies: “To have contributed to developing or bringing into practical use some of the main innovations in CO2 technology.”

“It’s an honour to be Person of the Year. What I appreciate most is that I’ve been approached by several of my competitors who said, ‘I’d choose you too’. I think this is the best recognition a professional can have.

Sergio Girotto, enEX

At the forefront of an industry

At enEX, Girotto has been the driving force behind a host of innovations including the use of ejectors to recover energy in warm climates, auxiliary compressors for flash gas recompression, overfed evaporators, and water chillers – including an ejector version.

His company has built over 1,000 CO2 transcritical systems, the first of which came off the production line in 2006.

Asked why enEX chose to focus solely on CO2, Girotto argues, “CO2 is good for so many different applications and capacities that it doesn’t make sense for us to expend our resources and energies in other directions”.

This is a shortened version of the cover story in the winter 2018 edition of Accelerate Europe magazine. To read the full version, click here.

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