U.S. multinational retailing giant Walmart has revealed that it has opened its first U.S. store to use transcritical CO2 (R744) refrigeration in Yaphank, New York, located on Long Island.
In a fiscal year 2022 climate brief, the Bentonville, Arkansas-based company noted that the Yaphank Supercenter, which opened in November 2021, “is the first to fully utilize CO2 technology for the store’s refrigeration needs.”
Walmart also operates more than 100 facilities (stores and distribution centers) using “ultra-low GWP refrigerants,” including CO2, glycol and ammonia/NH3 (R717), it said in the climate brief, adding, “We are using such systems in new construction where commercially available.” The ammonia is used in distribution center systems, while in other stores CO2 and glycol are used as secondary refrigerants.
Walmart acknowledged in the climate brief that most of its systems across the U.S. utilize high-GWP refrigerants. “Those systems need to be converted to low-GWP systems to reach our zero emissions target,” the company said. “Our strategy is to replace these systems as they reach their end-of-life, balancing the investment and replacement schedule with our zero-emissions commitments.”
Refrigerant emissions contributed approximately 54% of Walmart’s scope 1 (direct) GHG emissions (and 24% of its overall operational emissions) in 2020, increasing by 8.4% from 2019 to 2020. “Our analysis of the data suggests that the increase was primarily due to increased maintenance for equipment using R404A, which has not yet been converted to a lower Global Warming Potential (GWP) alternative,” said the company.
Walmart said it supports the U.S. AIM Act, which authorizes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to phase down consumption of high-GWP refrigerants. “That would support market changes necessary to implement low-GWP systems at scale and at reasonable cost,” said Walmart.
Walmart has submitted a letter to the EPA supporting regulatory actions for stationary refrigeration equipment that are “environmentally effective, such as limiting new commercial systems with charges over 50lbs (22.7kg) to refrigerants with a GWP of 150 or less.
In March, Walmart Canada, a division of U.S.-based Walmart that runs 408 stores throughout Canada, including 71 in Quebec, announced plans to open a 140,000ft2 (13,006.4m2) store in the summer of 2023 in Montreal that will use a transcritical CO2 system.
Clamor for change
Walmart has faced considerable criticism for continuing to use large amounts of HFC refrigerant. In 2019, responding to a public campaign by NGO Green America urging it to reduce its emissions of HFC refrigerants, Walmart said that many of its stores were “close to HFC-free” and that it is transitioning to low-GWP refrigerants in new and existing systems.
Last year, at a shareholder meeting, 5.5% of Walmart investors – a significant percentage – voted in favor of a proposal calling on the company to accelerate its plans to reduce refrigerants released from its operations, in particular HFCs.
“Our strategy is to replace these systems as they reach their end-of-life, balancing the investment and replacement schedule with our zero-emissions commitments.”Walmart Fiscal Year 2022 Climate Brief
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