Free Natural Refrigerants Workshop Provides Insights for Commercial Refrigeration Stakeholders

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Burlington, Vermont -- The state of supermarket refrigeration is changing rapidly. Hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants are the most commonly used refrigerants today and have been named the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions globally. This recognition has caused an onslaught of new refrigerant regulations at the federal, state and local levels, causing many food retailers to rethink their refrigeration strategies. Natural refrigerants, including ammonia, carbon dioxide (CO2), and propane are considered “future-proof” refrigeration options, but are not yet widely adopted by the industry.  

On October 3rd, the North American Sustainable Refrigeration Council (NASRC), VEIC, and Efficiency Vermont, the statewide energy efficiency utility operated by VEIC, sought to provide insight on these future-proof refrigerants though a free Natural Refrigerants Workshop sponsored by Danfoss and True Manufacturing. The event was attended by roughly seventy commercial refrigeration stakeholders, including end-users, service contractors, manufacturers, engineering and design firms, consultants, nonprofits, utilities, and suppliers.

“The purpose of this workshop was to get commercial refrigeration stakeholders together in one room to discuss the many natural refrigerant options and the obstacles still facing the industry,” said Ali White, Energy Consultant at VEIC. “We often work in silos, so our objectives were to encourage the sharing of perspectives, to generate business relationships, and to increase the understanding of natural refrigerant technologies.”

Keilly Witman, owner of KW Refrigerant Management Strategy, facilitated the workshop. She set the stage with a discussion of the “mega-trends” influencing supermarket decisions, including growing urban populations, the changing function of brick and mortar stores, increasing regulations, technology advances that outpace codes and standards development, and human capital shortages.

For the remainder of the workshop, several commercial refrigeration manufacturers shared insights on natural refrigerant choices for new and existing stores, and how the mega-trends relate to each technology option.

Michael Lehtinen of Kysor Warren kicked off the manufacturer presentations with an overview of natural refrigerant rack options in new store construction, including CO2 transcritical, ammonia/CO2 cascade, and propane/CO2 cascade. Lehtinen echoed the sentiment that natural refrigerants are a future-proof option that present opportunities to get ahead of increasing refrigeration regulations.

Todd Washburn of True Manufacturing followed Lehtinen with a discussion of self-contained propane systems in new stores. He discussed the opportunities presented by this technology, including significant energy efficiency gains and increased merchandising flexibility.

The second half of the workshop focused on natural refrigerant options for existing stores, disputing the misconception that natural refrigerants are only a viable option in new stores. Efficiency Vermont started the conversation by announcing their exploration of a CO2 condensing unit pilot program in 2019 to test the potential energy savings this technology could offer to small-format stores. Though condensing units are available in other areas of the world, they are not in use in the United States, making this potential program even more exciting. 

“CO2 condensing units offer tremendous potential for commercial refrigeration applications, from large supermarkets to small-format convenience stores,” said Danielle Wright, Executive Director of the NASRC. “This technology makes the transition to low-GWP refrigerants more economically feasible by allowing for retrofit options and offering efficiency gains.”

John Prall of Embraco followed the announcement with a presentation on self-contained propane options in existing stores, including a walk-in remodel and a full store remodel to replace a rack system. He spoke of the benefits an increased propane charge limit would have on both the available options for remodels and the potential energy savings. There is currently an international proposal to increase the propane charge limit from 150 grams to 500 grams, which will go to a final vote in December or January.

David Tomicki of Hussmann followed Prall with a discussion around the use of CO2 transcritical systems in existing stores. He shared a case study of a Hannaford Brothers store in New England that adopted a CO2 transcritical system in an existing store, highlighting that these projects can be done without any down time, without impacting customers, and with minimal risk to products.

Peter Dee of Danfoss concluded the manufacturer presentations with a discussion of automated controls and the benefits they offer for all systems and equipment, including potential energy savings, reduced carbon emissions, and increased food safety and quality.

“It was great to attend the workshop in Burlington, Vermont to discuss natural refrigerants and some of the new technology and equipment that is available,” said Josh Smith, Manager of Refrigeration Services at Ahold Delhaize’s Retail Business Services. “I enjoyed being able to give feedback to manufacturers as well as discover new ways that we can incorporate natural refrigerants into future projects.”

The day closed with a discussion of the opportunities and threats presented by each mega-trend. There was an overwhelming sentiment from workshop attendees that though natural refrigerants present a number of opportunities, there are still hurdles that still need to be addressed to give natural refrigerants an equal spot on the market.  

Primary hurdles presented by the NASRC included upfront and ongoing costs, service readiness, and codes and standards. The NASRC is working directly with stakeholders from the commercial refrigeration industry to address these barriers head-on and put natural refrigerants on par other refrigerant options.  

Gas Innovations Joins the NASRC as a Silver Member

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La Porte, TXGas Innovations, a world-wide supplier of high purity hydrocarbons in the refrigerant, pharmaceutical, industrial, electronics and agricultural chemical industries, has joined the North American Sustainable Refrigeration Council (NASRC) as a silver member. The NASRC is a 501c3 nonprofit dedicated to overcoming the hurdles preventing the widespread adoption of natural refrigerants in commercial applications.

“Gas Innovations is committed to providing high purity refrigerant hydrocarbons in a safe and efficient package to the refrigerant industry.  Our membership with the NASRC will allow us the opportunity to participate in the development of hydrocarbons as a natural refrigerant.” said Ashley Madray, Executive Vice President of Gas Innovations.

Natural refrigerants, including carbon dioxide, ammonia, and hydrocarbons, are considered “climate-friendly” alternatives to traditional fluorocarbon refrigerants, which have been identified as the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions globally. Natural refrigerant technologies offer a “future-proof” solution for commercial end-users seeking exemption from increasing refrigeration regulations. Hydrocarbons, which are Gas Innovations’ specialty, also offer guaranteed energy savings for food retailers.    

Despite these benefits, natural refrigerants face a unique set of challenges that are preventing their widespread adoption, including upfront and ongoing costs, slow moving codes and standards, and availability of trained service technicians. NASRC is working with stakeholders from the commercial refrigeration industry to address those barriers head on. Gas Innovations offers a unique expertise that will contribute to these efforts.

“We are very excited to welcome Gas Innovations to the NASRC community,” said Danielle Wright, Executive Director of the NASRC. “They will be a key partner in our effort to remove barriers to and accelerate the adoption of hydrocarbon technologies.”

In addition to Gas Innovations, NASRC membership is composed of systems manufacturers, component manufacturers, service technicians, consultants, engineering firms, trade associations, nonprofits, refrigerant distributors, and nearly 14,000 US supermarket locations.

 

About Gas Innovations

Gas Innovations has become a world leading provider of high purity hydrocarbons in the refrigerant, pharmaceutical, industrial, electronics, and agricultural chemical industries.  Ancillary services and products offered are technical consultation, equipment, and turnkey logistics to satisfy your business needs by being strategically located at the Port of Houston.

More information about Gas Innovations is available at www.gasinnovations.com.

Call for Training Resources: Technician Toolkit

When it comes to natural refrigerants, one of the hurdles for service technicians is the lack of educational materials. The NASRC Contractor & Service Technician progress group has set a goal to create a comprehensive list of available natural refrigerant training resources, aka the Technician Toolkit.

Get involved: Gain industry recognition by contributing your organization's training resources to the toolkit, whether it’s a link to a website or materials. The NASRC has started to compile resources for the toolkit and will be reaching out to members and other industry stakeholders.

Contact NASRC for more information. 

Low-GWP Incentives in California: What’s Next?

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The California Cooling Act (SB 1013) was signed into law on September 13th, 2018. The bill directs the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to establish a statewide incentive program for the installation of technologies using low-GWP refrigerants. 
 
There is one more critical step in this process. Funds for the incentive program must still be allocated by the legislature. Without support from our industry, the funding for incentives is at risk and may not be included in the State’s budget. 
 
Take action today to ensure funding for the low-GWP incentive program by:

  1. Submitting a letter of support to fund the incentive program. Contact NASRC staff for template language. 

  2. Attending CARB’s upcoming workshop on October 24th, 2018 to express comments of support.

  3. Signing up for the NASRC Incentives Task Force to stay informed on incentive activities and opportunities.

NASRC Brings Commercial Track to IIAR Conference & Expo

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March 3-6, 2019 • Phoenix, Arizona

Introducing the NEW commercial track at the 2019 IIAR Conference & Expo, featuring valuable educational sessions, in-depth technical presentations, and new material unlike any other industry event. Gain insight into the groundbreaking trends that will shape the future of commercial refrigeration.

You won't find this combination of product exhibitions, networking opportunities, and technical content anywhere else!

Get a sneak peak of commercial track agenda topics here.