Leading HVAC&R experts and high-profile end users gathered in Chicago last week for ATMOsphere America foresee a bright future for natural refrigerant applications in the United States. While many speakers hailed increased uptake of CO2, others were upbeat about the prospects for hydrocarbons and low-charge ammonia.
Day one of the ATMOsphere America conference, held at the Westin Michigan Avenue on 16-17 June, opened with back-to-back plenary sessions exploring the state of the industry and market opportunities for natural refrigerants in North America. Both shed light on where areas of current demand and showed how new innovations and ideas are paving the way for wider uptake of natural refrigerant technologies across the United States – in commercial and industrial applications alike.
Doing it all with CO2…
Dustan Atkinson, who manages product strategy at Hillphoenix, expressed confidence that the market share of CO2 transcritical in the US would continue to grow. “We see a very large market share going to CO2 transcritical – it is a truly future-proof solution, and it’s easy to install,” Atkinson said.
“Transcritical booster systems are no longer just being trialled – this is becoming mainstream, and it is very viable moving forward,” he argued. Since 2006, Hillphoenix has installed 200 secondary CO2 systems in North America along with 60 cascade systems and 200 booster systems.
Marc-André Lesmerises, CEO and co-founder of Carnot Refrigeration, sees potential for CO2 applications “everywhere”. In addition to putting CO2 transcritical systems into supermarkets in Canada, New York, New Jersey and California, “we’re installing systems in data centres, ice rinks, and for chillers in wineries,” said Lesmerises. YourCleanTechnology’s Andy Baker has even masterminded the installation of CO2 heat pumps in an Alaskan SeaLife Centre.
Ammonia is also experiencing a period of growth in the United States. Carnot has seen great success with CO2-ammonia systems for industrial refrigeration, and their latest project is a large-scale installation in a food production and distribution centre.
Michael Lehtinen from Heatcraft Worldwide Refrigeration demonstrated how its new ultra low-charge ammonia-CO2 system is already delivering impressive energy savings at a Piggly Wiggly store. Lehtinen singled out low-charge ammonia and CO2 transcritical as the “big trends”, predicting that uptake of natural refrigerant technologies will only increase as more technicians are trained in how to install, operate and maintain them.
Bitzer’s Joe Sanchez echoes that sentiment, reporting that the company had recorded a 60% increase in the number of ammonia compressors sold in the United States in the last two years. For CO2 transcritical, meanwhile, Bitzer will release a new six-cylinder, 50 HP compressor later this year.
Sanchez reported impressive growth in demand for CO2 and ammonia compressors in the North American market in recent years, and predicted that in future the boundaries between technologies designed for the commercial and industrial refrigeration sectors will dissipate.
New legislative developments are creating exciting new opportunities for collaboration between companies, reports SPX Cooling Technologies’ Vice-President Randy Powell.
“The way we do business is changing as much as the product,“ said Powell, pointing out that new regulatory requirements governing energy reduction and water usage had pushed SPX to work with different companies to develop compliant solutions.
Propane may also be on the brink of large-scale US expansion. Marek Zgliczynski of Embraco expects the impressive efficiency of hydrocarbon systems to trigger their wider rollout, with the company predicting a 20% increase in hydrocarbon technology sales this year.
However, barriers to increased uptake of hydrocarbons in the US include an excessively low charge limit and a lack of trained technicians, Zgliczynski warned.
Beverage giant Red Bull is blazing a trail for increased uptake of hydrocarbons across the United States. The drinks company is putting hydrocarbons at the heart of its sustainability strategy. It has already introduced over 200,000 hydrocarbon coolers to the US marketplace. Now that every new Red Bull cooler uses hydrocarbons too, company representative Richard Reeves predicts that this number will double within two years.
Reeves put initial safety concerns regarding the use of hydrocarbons in the US down to lack of awareness. Early on, “there was a lack of information in the US about hydrocarbon technology, but once we really started going into it, it was not an issue,” he said.
Red Bull is now communicating its success with hydrocarbons to other major beverage companies operating in the US market.
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