CO2 transcritical milestones - 3-year payback and now in the US - latest from ATMOsphere America

By Janaina Topley Lira, Jun 27, 2013, 17:07 3 minute reading

For the second year running ATMOsphere America - The Business Case for Natural Refrigerants, included a lively end user panel featuring leading North American retailers. This year, representatives from Whole Foods, Sprouts, Delhaize America, SUPERVALU and Sobeys, shared their experiences in the use of natural refrigerants. The biggest change since last year: CO2 transcritical has made it to the US.

Chaired by Keilly Witman from EOS Climate, formerly of the GreenChill Partnership, ATMOsphere America 2013’s end user panel looked at progress made by retailers in the use of natural refrigerants, the challenges faced, and their plans for the future. Over the last 12 months many of the retailers have made significant investments in CO2 refrigeration. For example Sobeys currently has 45 CO2 transcritical stores, with another 20 coming online in 2013. Whole Foods has a CO2 transcritical system in construction on the East Coast, and one in the design stage planned for the West Coast, whilst the first Delhaize CO2 transcritical store opens in July.
Very pleased to see transcritical systems being piloted in the US because that is where the bigger market is. Once these pilots get going and other commitments are made, I think between now and next year we are going to see some huge leaps forward”, Rod Peterson, Sobeys.
CO2 transcritical finally reaches US
In the US, Hannaford, part of the Delhaize Group is starting up a CO2 transcritical system in Maine in July 2013. Harrison Horning, Director of Energy and Facility Services - North, says that the relative proximity of the store to the Canadian system suppliers will allow them to be there to help start it up and help keep it running. Moreover they now have a partnership with a contractor that can help them get up the learning curve.
Another CO2 transcritical system is currently under construction on the East Coast by Whole Foods. J'aime Mitchell, Green Mission Specialist at Whole Foods said that the biggest challenge the retailer faced to get its first US CO2 transcritical project off the ground was the relatively high installation costs. Mitchell says this could either be because of the geographical location of the store, New York, or because contractors are pricing for the unknown. 
Richard Heath, Sr. Director of Energy Optimization, Source Refrigeration, formerly of SUPERVALU, said that overcoming the higher price of installation requires a complete scope of work to ensure that everyone involved in the project has a clear understanding of what is required. 
Transcritical CO2 has 3-year payback and becomes a National Standard for Sobeys 
According to Rod Peterson Procurement Manager - National Procurement, Sobeys originally started piloting natural refrigerant projects in 2008, and after piloting the different systems in 2009 the Canadian retailer opted for CO2 transcritical as their preferred system. In 2012 Sobeys made CO2 transcritical a national standard, meaning that all new stores will be transcritical CO2. 
In addition, Peterson says the added cost of a CO2 transcritical system, which have been calculated to be about 11% more per system, are recouped through the savings on installation, such as using less copper for piping for example, lower cost of the refrigerant, lower maintenance costs, and lower electricity costs. Overall, Peterson estimates the payback on a CO2 transcritical system to be 3 years. 
Finding qualified service technicians for the CO2 stores is not an issue
Although a lack of capability on the side of the service technicians is sometimes used as an argument not to invest in a new technology, Harrison Horning said that not enough credit is given to the service technicians, who he argues are entirely capable of coping with another type refrigeration system, such as one using CO2. With training on the uniqueness of CO2 systems, such as understanding high pressures, Horning believes the vast majority will have no trouble with the CO2 system.
Heath said for the all-natural SUPERVALU Carpinteria store in California, Hillphoenix, and Mayekawa went through with the technicians that were going to be operating the store the various procedures needed to safely operate the CO2 and ammonia systems. 
Increasing acceptance of natural solutions
In the panel conclusions Steve Hagen, Procurement Manager at Sprouts Farmers Market said that he believes natural refrigerant technology will continue to move forward and that there will be greater acceptance of naturals.


By Janaina Topley Lira

Jun 27, 2013, 17:07

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