Europe has over 5,500 stores using CO2 transcritical refrigerant systems to keep their products cool. While this number continues to grow year-on-year, there is a clear division between the north and south of Europe in terms of market adoption rates. This division is typically described as the ‘CO2 equator’ and rests on the thermo-physical principles of CO2, which means its efficiency is reduced above its ‘transcritical’ point of 31.1°C.

This inefficiency has previously led to doubts over the applicability of CO2 booster systems – which are typically used in northern climates – to Mediterranean countries such as Spain, Italy and Greece. Over time, however, more advanced solutions that mitigate this inefficiency have gained traction. The use of technologies such as parallel compression, ejectors and adiabatic gas coolers have all contributed to the ongoing evolution of CO2 in hotter climates, particularly in Spain.

Spanish business case for CO2 transcritical strengthening

The use of CO2 itself in Spain is nothing new. The majority of the retailers surveyed by Accelerate Europe noted their past experiences with using CO2/R134a cascade systems. The graduation to more advanced CO2 transcritical solutions is more of a recent phenomenon. Carlos Relanzón, head of facilities management in the development department at Consum, notes that the Spanish retailer’s decision to introduce CO2 transcritical stores where possible came about in 2015.

One of the drivers of this adoption across Spain is the recent implementation of a tax on f-gases. The tax, which was put in place in January 2014, targets fluorinated greenhouse gases – including hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) – with a global warming potential (GWP) greater than 150. This translates into considerable costs for retailers that use HFCs in their supermarket systems.

On the other hand, the promise of improved energy efficiency appeals greatly to retailers searching for new solutions. Gabriel Ruiz, general manager at Supermercados Hiber, explains:

CO2-based technology results are very attractive in supermarket installations, where the payback period is relatively gradual and equipment has a long life expectancy […] It allows for about 30% energy savings compared to traditional systems plus the return of investment is also quick [three years].”

Innovation spikes as rollout widens in Spain

As CO2 transcritical continues to enter Spain, the market is gradually getting more acquainted and familiar with the technology. This familiarity is increasing confidence in the system type and engendering the use of innovative solutions. Makro is showing a growing interest in newer, more advanced systems. José María De Santos, Makro’s Head of Refrigeration Installations explains:

“The installation at Makro Barajas [Madrid] has been equipped with parallel compressors. […] We also follow very closely the evolution of systems with ejectors to evaluate its performance.”

Consum is going a step further by rolling out trials of CO2 transcritical systems in all regions of Spain, including in the intense heat of the very south. The installation of a CO2 transcritical system in Murcia will be used to test the capabilities of the system for future stores.

Limitations with trained technicians in CO2

While market uptake is steadily growing and retailers are trialling new solutions, it would be premature to declare CO2 transcritical a future-proof solution. Makro notes:

I believe we still have a lot to do regarding this technology and there are a lack of prepared and skilled professionals on CO2.”

Due to potential limitations such as the lack of trained engineers or crucial efficiency testing in the south of Spain, the use of CO2 transcritical systems remains on the cusp of expansion. If these challenges are overcome, we could finally see the south catch up with the north – with CO2 becoming standard across the continent.

ATMOsphere Europe also moving to South

As companies in the natural refrigerant industry are increasingly bringing their attention to warmer climates and markets, it seems only natural that ATMOsphere Europe 2016 is also taking a new direction: it will be held in sunny Barcelona on 19-20 April. Among others, several leading Spanish end-users will talk about their experiences with natural refrigerant technologies, such as Carrefour Spain and Consum in the Food Retail Panel and Eroski in the Commercial Refrigeration Case Study session. The event offers a unique possibility to meet many more industry experts during supplier panels, policy, market trends and technology case study sessions.

The event is expected to attract over 300 industry experts, making ATMOsphere Europe 2016 a unique opportunity to create partnerships with leading end users, contractors, suppliers and government representatives. Just over a month to go until the event, already close to 100 companies have confirmed their attendance. You haven’t registered yet? Do it right away, or take our survey on natural refrigerant training, and you might win a free conference pass!

To read the full version of this story in the second edition of Accelerate Europe, please click here.

Author r744