Seminar Highlights Challenges and Successes of Natural Refrigerants

Presenters Keilly Witman, KW RMS and NASRC Board Chair and Danielle Wright, NASRC 

Presenters Keilly Witman, KW RMS and NASRC Board Chair and Danielle Wright, NASRC 

The NASRC held a natural refrigerants seminar focused on both the barriers and case studies of successful projects. The seminar was held in two half-day sessions on July 17th, 2017,  at the DC Engineering offices in Meridian near Boise, Idaho. Over thirty representatives from the supermarket refrigeration industry attended, including retailers, such as Albertsons and Whole Foods, as well as contractors, consultants, utilities and local state agencies.

Keilly Witman, KW RMS, presents a regulatory overview

Keilly Witman, KW RMS, presents a regulatory overview

 

Attendees received an overview of the environmental impacts of supermarket refrigeration, which are largely due to refrigerant leaks. Keilly Witman, formerly of the EPA GreenChill Partnership, presented and the policies and regulations that have been put in place by the government to mitigate these impacts.

Government regulations are just one of many hurdles that supermarkets face when considering natural refrigerant systems and equipment. Danielle Wright, Executive Director of NASRC, provided an overview of the primary barriers such as first costs, availability of service and codes and standards. These are hurdles that NASRC is taking action to overcome. 

Glenn Barrett, DC Engineering, presents a case study

Glenn Barrett, DC Engineering, presents a case study

Case studies were presented by DC Engineering and CTA Group. The projects featured various types of system architectures including CO2 transcritical, CO2/Ammonia cascade and CO2/propane cascade systems. Additionally, a small format store with CO2 transcritical with integrated HVAC for both cooling and heat reclaim. The presentations focused on the energy impacts, design considerations and lessons learned from each project.

Dwain Mayer, Danfoss, showcases the CO2 Mobile Training Unit

Dwain Mayer, Danfoss, showcases the CO2 Mobile Training Unit

Attendees also had the opportunity to view a live demonstration of a transcritical CO2 system provided by Danfoss mobile CO2 training unit. Danfoss also provided a series of 2-day hands-on trainings targeted to service technicians and contractors. 

 

 

To learn more about hosting a natural refrigerants seminar in your area, please contact NASRC at info@nasrc.org.

Why Supermarkets Should Care about the Kigali Amendment

In the wake of the recent decision by the US Federal Appeals Court that questions the EPA's power to regulate non-ozone depleting refrigerants, supermarket retailers are questioning how to move forward. Will the SNAP program have the power to approve refrigerants? Should they continue to plan to replace refrigerants with high global warming potential (GWP)? To answer these questions, supermarkets should look to the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol.

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Almost 30 years since it's signing, the Montreal Protocol is considered one of the most successful international treaties of all time. It has effectively eliminated the production of harmful ozone depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and is in the process of eliminating the production of hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFCs) refrigerants. However, this phase-out has effectively traded one environmental disaster for another, as the replacement refrigerants, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), cause global warming.

In 2016, the Kigali Amendment updated the Montreal Protocol to gain global commitment to the phasedown of HFCs. Developed countries, like the United States, will be required to begin reducing HFC production and import of HFCs in 2019. This reduction is expected to correlate to  increased HFC prices, especially those with high GWP.

"We continue to believe that now, as always, the strongest case for natural refrigerants is the business case," said Danielle Wright, Executive Director of NASRC. " It would be an unsound business decision to invest in HFCs for new equipment or retrofits when there are so many low GWP or zero GWP options available."

The Kigali Amendment also sets limits on the carbon dioxide equivalent emissions for several major corporations, including chemical manufacturers. These limits are expected to drive an increase in their manufacture of low-GWP refrigerants and a respective decrease in their manufactured volume of high-GWP refrigerants. Europe has already experienced a price increase of high-GWP refrigerants due to the accelerated phasedown of HFCs by the EU’s F-gas regulations. 

Furthermore, it should be noted that the US Appeals Court decision was not supported by the two largest US refrigerant manufacturers, Chemours and Honeywell. These companies are currently considering pursuing an appeal to have the entire DC Appeals Court  hear their case. These companies’ support of low-GWP refrigerants is another strong indicator of the inevitable phasedown of high GWP refrigerants.

While the Appeal Court decision may temporarily slow the phasedown of high GWP refrigerants, the Kigali Amendment will provide the economic drivers that will ultimately move the market towards low and zero GWP refrigerants. Supermarkets should act now to get ahead of what will surely be an expensive transition.

To learn more about the latest updates to policy and regulations for refrigerants, NASRC members are welcome join the next Quarterly Policy Webinar on August 23rd at 11AM PDT, register here.

Are HFCs Headed Towards a Price Hike?

By Danielle Wright, NASRC Executive Director, and Keilly Witman, NASRC's Policy Expert

Retailers are experiencing the painful transition from R-22 as prices have doubled, or even tripled, with no end in sight. The question retailers need to consider next is whether the commitments made by the United States under the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol will drive similar price increases for R-404A and R-407A.

The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal protocol, adopted in 2016, mandates the phasedown of Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). The amendment establishes a timetable for all developed and developing countries to freeze and then reduce production and use of HFCs. To meet its target, the United States will need to reduce HFC use by 40% by 2024. 

The HFC phasedown will be implemented through EPA production allocations for chemical manufacturers in a way that is similar to the way the R-22 phase-out was implemented. Each chemical manufacturer will be awarded a maximum amount of carbon dioxide equivalent that they will be allowed to manufacture each year, and e each chemical manufacturer will develop its own strategy on how to translate that carbon dioxide equivalent into HFC production. For instance, a chemical manufacturer that is allocated 100,000 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent, can choose to manufacture approximately 25 pounds of R-404A, or they can choose to manufacture about 70 pounds of their patented HFO blend.

This will drive the chemical manufacturers to invest their allocation towards the more profitable HFO blends, rather than the lower-priced high GWP HFCs, such as R-404A and R-407A. If you had the choice to sell 70 pounds of a patented HFO blend at $20 per pound or 25 pounds of R-404A at $10 per pound, which choice would you make?

With reduced supply of high GWP HFCs and the very high demand for those HFCs for supermarket refrigeration systems, the price of those high GWP HFCs will go up. Eventually, the current price premium of the HFO blends will disappear, which makes the HFO blends even more attractive.

The European market, another leading indicator for what might happen in the U.S., is accelerating the phasedown of HFCs well ahead of the Kigali Amendment schedule. HFC prices have already begun to increase due to the reduction in supply. According to the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), one major producer has increased the price of R-404a by over 60% in the first quarter of 2017.

The potential price increase of high GWP HFCs is just another challenge added to the list of hurdles that supermarket retailers face when it comes to refrigerant management. Natural refrigerants are the ideal solution, as they “future-proof” your business against future phase-outs and phasedowns. They are also insulated from refrigerant price volatility driven by chemical manufacturer production levels.

Natural refrigerants have their own hurdles when it comes to technology costs, service technician availability, and the lack of codes and standards. Now is the time to focus on overcoming these hurdles, so that retailers can avoid the uncertainty and cost of multiple refrigerant change-outs. How can you take action? Join one of NASRC’s progress groups and contribute to the real change today.

Natural Refrigerants Seminar & Hands-on CO2 Training Coming to Boise

Boise residents will have an exclusive opportunity to learn about natural refrigerants and receive in-depth training on a CO2 transcritical system. Danfoss has scheduled their CO2 Mobile Unit to stop in Boise, as one of two locations in the United States, before continuing on its world tour. 

    Click here for flyer

    Click here for flyer

NASRC will hold a Natural Refrigerant Seminar featuring two half-day sessions to provide an overview of natural refrigerants, the benefits and challenges, and see a live CO2 transcritical system. Attendees will include end users, contractors, educations, local government and utility representatives. 

The seminar will be hosted by DC Engineering in partnership with NASRC, KW Refrigerant Management Strategy, CTA Group and Danfoss. A social event will follow the final session and is open to all attendees. 

Session 1: 9am – 12pm – for government and educators
Session 2: 1pm – 4pm – for end-user and utilities
Social event: 4 – 6pm, open to all

   Click here for flyer

   Click here for flyer

The Danfoss CO2 Mobile Training Unit team will be also offering three 2-day training sessions designed to provide hands-on experience for retailers, system builders and installers and service technicians. Sessions are expected to fill up quickly as space is limited to 12 participants per session. 

Training Session 1 – July 11-12, 9am – 4pm
Training Session 2 – July 13-14, 9am – 4pm
Training Session 3 – July 18-19, 9am – 4pm

Member Perspective: Q&A with Sprouts Farmers Market

NASRC interviewed Frank Davis, Director of Facility Engineering at Sprouts Farmers Market, for his perspective and experience with natural refrigerants. 


Q: Why was it important to join NASRC? What do you hope to gain?
A: We were motivated to join after the NASRC workshop at SMUD. When I saw all the partners involved that share Sprouts’ interest in taking steps to explore natural refrigerants, I recognized that being a member will help us gain a better understanding of how to manage and operate natural refrigerant systems. The workshop and membership reminded me of the GreenChill program, where collaboration really helped to share end-user experiences and opened the door to connect with others.

Q: What technologies and refrigerants have you tested?
A: We currently have three sites. One CO2 cascade system in California, built in 2011, that is using 407a on the high side. This system has had no leaks on the HFC refrigerant side to date. We also have a CO2 transcritical system in Georgia, complete in 2013, and another Sprouts that opened there this June with parallel compression. We are now looking for another site in Sacramento.

Q: What drove you to test natural refrigerants?
A: Natural refrigerants are the future for Sprouts stores. It has been only talk over the last 5 to 10 years, but now it’s here and is only going to accelerate. We really needed to explore the technology and get our feet wet to discover and overcome the challenges, including cost, energy, maintenance and serviceability.

Q: Was it difficult to find technicians to service these systems?
A:
Hillphoenix provided training after the opening of our store in Georgia, but finding qualified technicians to provide ongoing service is difficult.

Q: Was the new system more expensive? If so, how did you justify internally?
A: The new systems were more costly, but the pilot will help Sprouts learn what works for us so we will be prepared for future regulatory changes. Our investment in this technology helps further Sprouts’ commitment to responsible retailing, and as a member of the NASRC, I hope that our learnings can help other retailers.

Q: What was biggest challenge compared to a traditional system?
A: The installation was very straightforward, but the biggest challenge since has been the general cost of ownership. The system requires specific maintenance, which calls for more hours and more costly parts in addition to storage and rental for CO2 tanks. We expect the third store to show energy savings and are looking forward to seeing how it counteracts these costs.

Q: What was the biggest benefit or gain?
A: We’re gaining a base of experience and data which will make it easier for us to manage changing regulations. New technology always brings a learning curve, but we keep learning and growing as we experience it.

Q: Would you do it again? Why or why not?
A:
Yes. Overall, the systems are more complex to manage, but increasing our learnings is worth the challenge. In the future, I would like to see a store with only self-contained cases which would help reduce costs and minimize maintenance.