Europe can expect to see 64,000 CO2 transcritical stores by 2025

Masson began her presentation with an overview of European trends and experiences with climate-friendly natural refrigerant technology. The most buoyant markets for CO2 transcritical commercial refrigeration technology, where the number of supermarkets doubled between 2011 and 2013, are Germany, Switzerland and Scandinavia. Masson noted that system suppliers estimate an increase of 6000+ COTC units per year from 2018 onward, with 32,000 by 2020 and 64,000 by 2025. Two retail brands received particular attention, COOP Switzerland, which currently has approximately 300 transcritical CO2 based stores, and Aldi Sud, which has 80% of its cabinets running hydrocarbons.

Many end users now consider natural refrigerant systems to be reliable, safe, and to have a higher efficiency and performance, as well as improved servicing and maintenance infrastructure compared to f-gas solutions.  

This correlates with 2015 being an important year for HVAC&R policy in Europe with the revised F-Gas Regulation becoming effective as of January 2015. As a result of this, -it is expected that we will see a gradual phase-down of bulk HFCs, measured in tonnes of CO2eq placed on the EU market by 79 % by 2030 compared to average levels in 2009-2012. 

Chinese transcritical CO2-based stores driven by retailer adoption

With regards to natural refrigerant uptake outside Europe, Masson discussed the soon to be launched GUIDE China 2015, which will be published in cooperation with the Chinese Association of Refrigeration (CAR).  The GUIDE China 2015 will present market trends alongside future predictions about the natural refrigerant market. From data collected thus far it seems that international food retailers such as Tesco and Metro are driving the adoption of natural refrigerants in Chinese supermarkets. In total there are eight CO2 transcritical stores in China.

Tesco sees a bright future with regard to using natural refrigerants in supermarkets. Robert Hurley Group Engineering Standards Manager at Tesco, says he considers it important to further explore  market opportunities for CO2 and propane systems, whether it be China, or elsewhere, such as Thailand or Malaysia, where they already operate a cascade CO2 refrigeration system for example.

As illustrated by the GUIDE China survey, which received 944 respondents from the HVAC&R industry, the use of f-gases versus natural refrigerant is still significant, with more than 60% still using HCFCs. Among natural refrigerants, CO2 is the most popular choice followed by hydrocarbons.  Out of all respondents half said that they would use natural refrigerants in the future, with another 32 % not yet sure, indicating that there is large untapped potential for more communication about natural refrigeration technology and its business case. Overall, the highest potential for hydrocarbons is in domestic refrigeration, CO2 and ammonia in industrial refrigeration and CO2 in commercial refrigeration and heat pumps. CO2 heat pumps are already beginning to take off with approximately 160 installations in China, from seven different suppliers. 

According to Masson, one of the main challenges facing natural refrigerant technologies in China is the 50 % cost increase. 

In one year Japan has seen a 400 % increase in the number of CO2 stores 

Masson ended her presentation by looking at Japanese market trends, which will be further studied in another of shecco’s upcoming publications, the GUIDE Japan. Japan is a world leader when it comes to numbers of CO2 stores, with convenience store operator Lawson leading the charge, aiming to be the “world’s number one natural refrigerant retailer.” By the end of February 2015 Lawson expects to be operating 570 transcritical stores in Japan. R744 is now a standard technology for all new stores as part of Lawson’s strategy to reduce energy consumption by 20% as compared to fiscal year 2010. 

Overall, the number of CO2 stores will increase from 190 in March 2014 to 763 by March 2015.  Of these, 600 are CO2 transcritical stores.  Japan has also seen its first all-natural store open, thanks to SAVE ON. With 605 stores across Japan, SAVE-ON’s opened the first store in Japan to use Panasonic’s CO2 transcritical technology for wall side cases and R290 cabinets by AHT.   

With regard to policy, Japanese authorities are providing a strong signal to the international industry in demonstrating the viability of HCFC and HFC alternative solutions in the sectors where such alternatives are available. At the national level, 14 Japanese organisations are implementing new measures including supporting the conversion of f-gases to natural refrigerants.  Manufacturers and importers will also soon be required to replace high-GWP (global warming potential) products with low-GWP or natural refrigerant solutions.

In terms of finance schemes there is also increased support for: 

  • R&D of alternative materials, including new refrigerants, blowing agents, and so on
  • R&D for f-gas free technologies for A/C systems and refrigeration systems, including for food retail and industrial applications
  • Energy-saving equipment using natural refrigerants with 1/3 introduction cost equaling to the target 

As a result of these measures there is expected to be an increased market penetration through mass production.