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The New Nexus of Refrigerant Strategy

Originally published: 12.01.15 by Danfoss


E fforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are reaching critical mass. India has joined the U.S., China, the EU, Brazil and others in supporting a new United Nations pact to form an international climate change agreement that many expect to be finalized at the meetings in Paris this month.

Meanwhile, in the United States, EPA's Clean Power Plan will help control CO2 emissions from power plants through state-specific targets. Toward this end, California has pledged to reduce its emissions by 40 percent, compared to a 1990 baseline, by 2030. Additionally, and at the same time, regulations are now poised to address the global warming contributions of refrigerants in supermarkets.

The Montreal Protocol established a global framework for shifting from ozone depleting substances to non-ozone depleting HFCs. Mainstream HFC refrigerants, however, have high global warming potentials (GWPs); in some cases, HFCs (e.g. R-404A) have significantly higher GWPs than the products they are replacing (e.g. R-22).

Inevitably, the design, installation and maintenance of commercial refrigeration equipment have come under scrutiny, with system leaks remaining a focal point for the the policy spotlight. While direct emission rates have improved overall, refrigerant leakage continues to be a chronic problem, with larger field erected systems being


particularly vulnerable. Improving energy efficiency also remains a priority for reducing indirect GHG emissions. This impetus has policymakers looking to replace HFCs with refrigerant alternatives with dramatically lower GWPs and higher energy efficiencies.

Several potential paths forward have emerged: reducing refrigerant charge, stabilizing system operation and approaching applications with climate-specific equipment. This transition comes with a cost, however, and involved parties are looking for regulatory and refrigerant certainty to future-proof their investments.

Through research the industry is making important progress, and today, CO2 and hydrocarbons are emerging as leading options for several commercial refrigeration applications because of their combined low-GWP and energy efficiency benefits. But, collaboration among stakeholders is essential — end users, equipment manufacturers, contractors, refrigerant manufacturers and others. The "To-Do" list includes tracking leaks, conducting energy analyses, increasing CO2 refrigerant supplies, reducing system charge levels, training, and managing the design challenges of more complex systems. Major food retail chains are already building the teams required.

Utilities also have a role to play in addressing this new nexus. Incentivized by the trends in public policy, utilities are ripe targets for GHG emission reductions. Low carbon power generation is seeing progress, but not at the scale required to break the link between power production and greenhouse gas emissions.

Three core principles must be embodied by the HVACR industry to substantively reduce GHG emissions in commercial refrigeration: Awareness, Education and Adoption.

Awareness requires that supermarkets recognize the impact on public climate initiatives. Education will help to ensure that industry best practices become common practice. Adoption necessitates that incentives are in place to help overcome front-end financial obstacles. The requirements of such a transition, however, are substantial.

The heart of the matter is establishing a new axiom for the food industry and utilities alike: energy management means also refrigerant management. And that is the idea that the commercial refrigeration and supermarket industries are now challenged to embrace.

Today's energy and climate concerns mean that commercial refrigeration is no longer insulated from the impact of its environmental footprint. Both market and regulatory actions will play roles in the movement to alternative refrigerants, especially natural refrigerants. Such a transition, however, will require an increasingly collaborative industry focus on training, safety standards, data models, and scaled up equipment supply. Simultaneously, proactive market solutions and voluntary government initiatives — like the GreenChill program, in conjunction with SNAP — must foster positive progress while regulators continue to consider the global HFC phasedown process.

What is now certain is that increasing calls for a refrigerant phasedown, ever-increasing energy costs, and pressures to reduce CO2 emissions will collectively impact both refrigerant and equipment selection, as well as maintenance procedures and leak mitigation efforts. In the emerging refrigeration world, contractor training and certification will be more important than ever and collaboration across the relevant industries will be essential.

 


Lisa is director of corporate communications & public relations for Danfoss North America. For additional information, visit www.danfoss.com.

 

 




About Danfoss

Danfoss North America's global sales and service organization in North America makes it possible to deliver world-class support on a local level. We are a valued partner for each and every customer, providing them with components and system solutions to boost productivity, efficiency, energy savings, and profitability. For additional information, visit danfoss.us.




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