The Business Case for Natural Refrigerants in North America - ATMOsphere America 2012
09 December 2011
“This is going to be an incredibly exciting year: first ammonia system, first CO2 transcritical system in the US,” said Keilly Witman, GreenChill Partnership, US Environmental Protection Agency.
Mr Richard Heath, Director of Energy Innovations & Projects at SUPERVALU said he believed all the retailers at the conference could utilize systems that employ at least 90% natural refrigerants right away. “For new stores, there’s no reason not to be all natural,” he said.
The lively ATMOsphere America end user panel discussion included Mr Harrison Horning from Delhaize America, Mr Tom Hutchison from EnReps (Fresh & Easy), Ms Kathy Loftus from Whole Foods, Mr Simon Bérubé from Sobeys and Mr Richard Heath from Supervalu.
Proving the business case for natural refrigerants
Discussions on how to prove the business case for natural refrigerants highlighted the importance of having top management on board and on the lack of clarity on how to quantify the cost of investing in CO2. Whilst Mr Richard Heath from SUPERVALU recommended comparing a natural refrigerant installation to an R22 DX system where many people have a good idea of the cost, Mr Tom Hutchison, Founder & CEO of EnReps said that Fresh and Easy compares the natural refrigerant option to the available alternative that could be used instead.
Harrison Horning, Director of Energy and Facility Services, Delhaize America said that whenever the issue of cost comes he reminds people you have to “take the long view for the economic analyses”.
CO2 refrigeration systems can save up to $(CAN) 1 million a year in operation costs
Canadian retailer Sobey’s has installed different natural refrigerant solutions across 38 of its stores, including several CO2 cascade systems and 28 transcritical CO2 systems. Mr Simon Bérubé, Senior Director of Engineering and Commercial Development at Sobeys said, “The renovation of a 24/7 store with CO2 systems has become cheaper than the cost of a new store that I was buying one year ago, so there has been a huge improvement in the cost.”
Moreover, when comparing natural refrigerant solutions to the conventional options, according to Mr Bérubé, “after an analysis of the costs it was calculated that we would save over $(CAN) 1 million per year in operational costs thanks to the new technology.”
Kathy Loftus, Global Leader of SustainableEengineering and Energy Management for Whole Foods Market, which has installed several CO2 systems, has been hearing that start-up costs for CO2 are “better than with other systems”.
Climate goals help to incentivise investment
When asked by Ms Witman about corporate climate goals and their impact on the uptake of natural refrigerant systems Richard Heath explained that SUPERVALU has metrics that are financially tied to bonuses, from manager level all the way up to Senior Vice President, associated with sustainability goals, incentivising investment in sustainable technology.
However according to Mr Heath a lot of money that could be spent on new technology is currently spent on carbon accounting. The need come up with one simple way to count carbon, without changing how to reassess baseline, and to calculate life cycle costs was echoed by other panellists.
Choosing the right location
Ms Loftus noted that in some parts of the U.S. it is difficult to install natural refrigerant systems because of the lack of technicians who know how to service these systems. Whole Foods decided against a CO2 system in North Carolina for that reason, she said.
Mr Heath also said it was no accident that SUPERVALU’s all-natural store is located in California, where the technology “means something too for the community.”
Delhaize Group has about 2500 stores mainly in the US and in Europe. The standard in Europe is currently to use a CO2 secondary or cascade system, but the company has also completed several CO2 transcritical installations. Delhaize America has around 1500 stores, with 3 operating with low temperature CO2 or as cascade, and one CO2 transcritical project is planned for 2013 for the State of Maine.
The first natural refrigerant system that Fresh &Easy installed in the US was a subcritical CO2 system, now around 2 years old. Also installed are self-contained propane cases.
Whole Foods’ first CO2 store was completed in 2009, a low temperature CO2 secondary system. In 2010 the company installed two CO2 cascade systems in California and Massachusetts. The company is now working on the deign of their first CO2 transcritical store
Sobey’s has installed different natural refrigerant solutions across 38 of its stores, including several CO2 cascade systems. The last 28 installations have been transcritical CO2 systems with the latest racks small enough to fit in the mechanical room next to the existing rack, allowing the store to remain open 24/7 throughout the retrofit.
Supervalu, a founding member of the GreenChill Partnerhsip has over the years invested in various types of systems ranging from glycol to ammonia. The latest installation is an innovative ammonia installation that has a Mayekawa ammonia primary system on top of a Hill PHOENIX CO2 system for the medium temperature cascaded to a DX system on the low temperature side. The system has been operating for a month, and according to Mr Heath “has been operating like a champ.”