CO2 mainstream in the USA within 5 years, ATMOsphere America audience believes

By Ginta Vanaga, Jun 21, 2013, 11:00 4 minute reading

With availability, market and regulatory hurdles constantly being cleared for a maturing North American natural refrigerants market, participants at the ATMOsphere America conference confirmed that the major push to put the USA on track for a world leadership in R744 technology will happen in the next 5 years. The 2nd edition of the meeting started off with market trends and examples of leadership shown by North American corporations in driving the HFC-free technology market forward.

Higher capital costs, as well as unfavourable standards and regulation are still the two most obvious challenges holding back a rapid market expansion of CO2 (R744) in commercial refrigeration and other applications, concluded 200 attendees at the ATMOsphere America conference held from 17-19 June in Washington DC. Organised for the 2nd time, the event brought together end-users, component and system suppliers, associations, regulatory bodies, and NGOs, brought together by their shared interest in moving the market for natural refrigerants forward, and in building the “business case for natural refrigerants”, as the event tagline promised.

As compared to the 1st edition in 2012 participants were more confident that North America could take on a clear leadership role for HFC-free refrigeration, cooling and heating, but also lamented the slow progress made over the last 12 months on crucial issues, such as a better education of the wider public and customer base about the benefits of natural refrigerants, or defining clear training standards for HVAC&R technical personnel. A strong signal from the more than 100 different organisations present was sent by the high attendance rate of senior level representatives directly involved in business decisions regarding the creation and expansion of product lines for CO2, hydrocarbons or ammonia.

CO2 works… but North America needs to take more leadership

Welcoming participants, ATMOsphere chairman and shecco’s Managing Director Marc Chasserot confirmed that a clear movement would be happening in North America as regards the use of natural refrigerants. Nina Masson, Head of Market Research for shecco, substantiated this general conclusion by drawing attention to the current numbers of HFC-free light-commercial and CO2 supermarkets in North America as two of the most obvious sectors to experience growth in the coming years. Presenting a global comparison of stores using cascade and transcritical CO2 refrigeration systems, Masson showed that Canada would now be the country with the 2nd highest numbers of CO2 transcritical stores outside Europe, and after Japan; while the USA would be 2nd ranked non-European country in terms of cascade and secondary systems combined, after Australia. In both areas Europe will assume market leadership for the years to come but Japan, the USA and China could catch up quickly. She concluded that while current numbers of HFC-free installations in the USA and Canada would fall short of expectations, especially as compared to the global adoption rate of hydrocarbon technology, North America would have the potential to transform the entire industry when showing clear leadership both on the suppliers side but by committed end-users driving the issue.

CO2 works… in all climates

Scott Martin from Hillphoenix provided an overview of all available solutions for the North American market currently offered by the company: pump CO2 secondary systems resulting in a 50+% reduction in HFC use; cascade CO2 systems avoiding 60-75% of HFCs; and HFC-free booster systems. Since 2006, Hillphoenix has installed around 100 cascade, 30 cascade systems, and 20 booster systems in North America – the latter mostly in Canada and using Advansor’s booster system. Martin confirmed that obtaining UL listing for Advansor’s booster system in late 2012 was a critical step towards spreading their use in the USA. Hillphoenix is now working on new ways and designs to use the efficiency of booster systems in subcritical operation, and to reduce the negative impact of high ambient temperatures on their efficiency. The use of adiabatic gas coolers will allow for many more subcritical operating hours, and could result in annual energy savings in San Antonio, Texas, of 22%, Hillphoenix’ theoretical calculations show. Also the use of parallel compression of CO2 flash gas would improve energy savings to 15% in warm southern climates. Martin concluded that while the first cost of CO2 booster systems would be more expensive than alternatives today, the “Made in USA” trend towards domestic production and economies of scale would drive down costs quickly.

CO2 works… in supermarkets, distribution centres, ice rinks and as a retrofit option

Marc-Andé Lesmerises from Carnot Refrigeration, North America’s current market leader for CO2 transcritical supermarket installations, looked back at the company’s journey, started in 2007, until the present day, where we now see high acceptance rates of R744 solutions among several supermarket chains. Today, 83 systems are running in Canada, mostly, with the latest one being installed in Maine, USA. Lesmerises drew attention to the fact that end-users would very well understand the benefits of CO2 refrigeration, and that R744 use would now start to penetrate other promising markets, including distribution centres and ice rinks. Thanks to a provincial scheme to retrofit old ice rinks a comparison of 12 different technology options was done where CO2 emerged as the best solution when looking at all factors, such as direct heat recovery avoiding the use of a glycol system, system compactness and ease of installation. As a result, almost 80% of all ice rinks in Québec would now be retrofitted with CO2 systems. He stressed the importance of skilled personnel able to optimise system operation and drive down costs, and recommended a larger focus on Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) as the best approach to evaluate the real cost over a system’s lifetime. CO2 systems would not be more expensive than HFC systems when including the heat reclaim option in the initial cost. 


By Ginta Vanaga

Jun 21, 2013, 11:00

Related stories