CO2 (R744)-based refrigeration technologies can offer numerous benefits to the Philippines’ expanding cold storage sector, according to Emilio Gonzalez La’O, President of Cold Front Technologies Asia, a HVAC&R contractor.

From low energy usage and maintenance costs to suitability for urban locations, transcritical CO2 systems can provide an economic and safe option for cold storage facility operators looking to increase their capacity. They are also more sustainable than alternative equipment.

In an interview with Jan Dusek, Chief Operating Officer and Head of Asia Pacific at ATMOsphere, publisher of R744.com, Gonzalez La’O noted that there are currently around 500,000 pallet positions across the Philippines. With a 98–100% occupancy rate, there is a need for additional capacity, he added.

For examples, Filipino cold chain solutions provider Glacier Megafridge is expecting to double its cold storage capacity from 70,000 to 150,000lbs (31,751 to 68,038kg) over the next five years.

To support the adoption of CO2 systems in the Philippines, Gonzalez La’O said that improvements need to be made to the local and regional supply chain, and end users need to be better educated on the financial and environmental benefits of the technology.

Embracing new technologies

“When we started [in 2016], we knew that we needed to do something a little different to be able to compete in this industry,” explained Gonzalez La’O. “Besides trying to get into refrigeration and HVAC systems, a good way to make a mark for ourselves is to really embrace new technologies such as CO2 and R290 [propane]; we really wanted to be a leader in [those technologies].”

In January 2023, Cold Front installed the Philippine’s first transcritical CO2 refrigeration unit, which was manufactured by Japanese OEM Nihon Netsugen Systems. The unit was commissioned as part of a demonstration project at the Cold Chain Innovation Hub (CCI-Hub) in Taguig City.

Less than 10 months later, the two companies had finished installing a transcritical CO2 system at a Glacier Megafridge refrigerated warehouse on the island of Panay – the country’s first CO2-based cold storage facility.

The project received co-financing from the Global Partnership for Improving the Food Cold Chain in the Philippines (FCC), via the CCI-Hub, to show how improved cold chains can help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, operational costs and food loss in the Philippines.

“Besides trying to get into refrigeration and HVAC systems, a good way to make a mark for ourselves is to really embrace new technologies such as CO2 and R290 [propane], we really wanted to be a leader in [those technologies].”

Emilio Gonzalez La’O, Cold Front Technologies Asia

The results and learnings from this project will be presented at the ATMOsphere Asia Pacific (ATMO APAC) Summit 2024 in Tokyo. The conference is due to take place February 6–7 and is hosted by ATMOsphere.

A second project is expected to be completed in Pasig, just outside Manila, in December. This installation includes a CO2-based blast freezer, which, according to Gonzalez La’O, demonstrated the versatility of the technology. This is the first time CO2 has been used for blast freezing in the Philippines, he added.