Over the past decade, German OEM TEKO has completely transformed its commercial refrigeration offering, mostly transitioning from super-polluting f-gases like R22 to natural refrigerants like CO2 (R744), mirroring Managing Director Andreas Meier’s view that “the future is natural.”
Meier’s remarks came during an interview with ATMOsphere Founder and CEO Marc Chasserot at the ATMO World Summit on March 30. The 24-hour online conference was organized by ATMOsphere (formerly shecco), publisher of R744.com.
According to data presented during the interview, around 96% of TEKO’s retail applications in 2021 utilized CO2 as a refrigerant, up from around 14% in 2012, when most of its applications were f-gas-based. Meier attributed TEKO’s shift to natural refrigerants to the EU’s F-gas Regulation and to end users’ desire to have future-proof systems.
The majority share shifted to CO2 in 2016, coinciding with the year that the current version of the F-gas Regulation came into effect, showing the policy’s potential impact. Since then, the number of TEKO’s retail applications utilizing f-gases has fallen away.
“[TEKO is] really fully dedicated to natural refrigerants,” said Meier during his interview. “For us, that’s mostly CO2, but we are also working with ammonia [NH3/R717].”
This trend has been seen by manufacturers across Europe over the last few years, and Meier thinks that it’s only a matter of time until similar transitions to natural refrigerants take place further afield.
“I think the future is natural,” said Meier. “We see the impact [of climate change] on a daily basis, and we have to take care of our environment.”
F-gas Regulation should be ambitious
When asked about the impending EU F-gas Regulation proposal, Meier expressed his hope for increased strictness. “[The regulation] should be more ambitious with restrictions on refrigerant GWP. If it’s above 50 or above 10 [GWP], just leave it out,” said Meier.
“I think the future is natural… We see the impact [of climate change] on a daily basis, and we have to take care of our environment.”Andreas Meier, TEKO
“Everything is ready, so why not push it?” he continued. “European manufacturers are leading in natural refrigerants, so why would we want to take this strong argument away?”
In addition to stricter limits on refrigerant GWP, TEKO’s Meier discussed the need for stronger deterrents to high-GWP refrigerants, such as bans or taxation. While recognizing that the latter falls under national and not EU-level jurisdiction, Meier expressed concern that without such action, there will be no meaningful change.
While many are proposing HFOs as an interim lower-GWP solution, Meier doesn’t view them as a viable option. Aside from price – when compared to some other lower-GWP refrigerants – he sees very few other benefits to the adoption of HFOs.
Challenges in the rollout of heat pumps
To reduce reliance on fossil fuels, particularly oil and gas from Russia, Europe’s rollout of heat pumps has been scaled up significantly over the last few months. While this move benefits climate action and energy security, it’s not without its challenges – such as supply-chain issues and the potential impact on the EU’s F-gas Regulation proposal – that could threaten the continent’s transition to a climate-friendly HVAC&R sector, according to Meier.
“The influence [of heat pumps] will be good, but it will create a shortage of components,” said Meier. This comes on top of an already-strained supply chain due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He likened the problem to the experience with electric cars, where demand for parts outweighed supply, grinding the market to a halt.
Another concern voiced by Meier during the interview was that some stakeholders may try to soften the newly proposed EU F-gas Regulation with the argument that heat pump demand can’t be met without the use of synthetic/higher-GWP refrigerants, which are due to be further restricted in the proposed revisions. However, as Meier pointed out, heat pumps with varying load sizes that operate with natural refrigerants are already on the market.
When asked for an update on TEKO’s heat pump applications, Meier revealed that the company is currently testing a new energy-efficient, natural refrigerant heat pump system for large-scale application, emphasizing that TEKO is focused more on the industrial side of the market rather than the domestic. Because of Europe’s current energy crisis, a lot of businesses are looking for more reliable energy sources, like heat pumps. This will be a big driver for TEKO over the coming years, he said.
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