Masthead - Climate Control Journal

Cooling to the Green Deal with natural CO2 refrigerant systems

WELSHPOOL, United Kingdom, 17 August 2021: Invertek Drives showcased its dedicated VFD, Optidrive Coolvert, for use on CO2 refrigeration display cases used in the retail sector. The company added that its Optidrive Eco operates on larger current refrigeration compressor racks and cold rooms.

Invertek make the announcement against the backdrop of the European Commission’s Green Deal, also referred to as Fit for 55, which sets out proposals to cut EU net greenhouse emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels. This could mean the current target of reducing fluorinated greenhouse gas (F-Gas) emissions by two-thirds by 2030, compared with 2014 levels, will be adjusted and tightened further.

The EU F-Gas Regulation brought a 44% reduction in the amount of available HFCs in the EU, compared to 2015. By 2030, the current regulation allows only 20% of HFCs being available, with stepped drops between then and now. This could change in the recast.

According to Invertek, the impact of both means there is a need to ramp up the use of natural refrigerants, such as CO2, in cooling and refrigeration systems. And this isn’t just in the EU but throughout the world as part of the existing Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, it said.

Variable frequency drives (VFDs), the company said, are playing an important role in reducing emissions and energy use in HVAC&R systems. Optidrive Coolvert, it said, is one of the smallest VFDs in its class providing OEMs with opportunities to reduce panel space and lower machine costs. It fits directly into refrigeration display cases alongside a CO2 compressor, it added.

This is in addition to end-user savings of up to 25% using CO2 refrigerant condensing systems, which it is specifically designed to work with, the company claimed. A combination of meeting EU F-Gas Regulations and cutting energy use is a significant benefit for the end-user as well as for the environment, it said.

Mike Carman, Head of Sales, Invertek Drives, said: “The recast of the F-Gas Regulation comes as the EU sets out its new and wider environmental ambitions through the Green Deal. It’s widely believed this is the precursor to a significant adjustment in the F-Gas Regulation timeframe.

“With either more cuts in the amount of HFCs available in the EU or increased limits on emissions, it’ll impact on the manufacturers and end-users of refrigeration and wider HVAC/R systems”

According to Invertek, the Optidrive Coolvert also has the widest ambient operating range of between -20 degrees C and +60 degrees C, making it ideal for use in a wide range of environments. It can be used for the control of CO2 ­­­­rotary or scroll, BLDC compressors used in supermarkets and convenience store display cases; heat pumps, and condensing units, the company said. This is in comparison to the Optidrive Eco VFD, which operates on larger-capacity semi-hermetic and screw compressors used in industrial and food retail refrigeration racks, and chillers, the company added.

According to Invertek, Coolvert is compatible with all motor types, including induction motors, permanent magnet motors, brushless DC motors, synchronous reluctance motors and Line Start PM motors ranging between Single Phase (Active PSE) 7A and 20A, and Three-Phase 14A to 24A (input of 200V to 480V).

Its open Modbus RS485 communication, the company said, ensures seamless connection to any external application controller, allowing the OEM freedom to select which components to use, which again helps lower manufacturing costs.

With an IP20-rated front and an IP55-rated rear, its panel mounting allows the drive’s power electronics to be cooled by the chilled air of the condenser, the company said, adding that this allows OEMs to select the smallest panel size for the control of the electronics, while removing heat generated by the drive and maintaining the IP rating.

Epta: ‘Possible to replace HCFC, HFC refrigerants with transcritical CO2 anywhere in the world’

MILAN, Italy, 29 June 2021: Increasingly stringent international regulations are driving a massive transformation in the world of commercial refrigeration – at a European level with the F-gas Regulation and internationally with the Kigali Amendment, commercial refrigeration manufacturer, Epta said through a Press release.

The company said it has already achieved important milestones in the technological development of HFC-free solutions. It added that its Life-C4R (Carbon 4 Retail) Refrigeration project, co-financed by the European Union, confirms the benefits of a natural approach.

Francesco Mastrapasqua, the company’s Institutional Affairs Manager, said: “The three-year Life-C4R – Carbon 4 Retail Refrigeration project was created to sensitise the scientific community, the component suppliers and the retail world’s key players in the use of increasingly efficient solutions. One of the goals is demonstrating how HCFC and HFC refrigerants can be completely replaced with transcritical CO2, anywhere in the world.”

The patented FTE 2.0 Full Transcritical Efficiency and ETE Extreme Temperature Efficiency systems, Epta said, are recognised by the EU as simple and efficient systems and are at the very core of the Life-C4R. “The Life-C4R Plan is essential in validating the FTE and ETE performance in all climatic conditions, in promoting their international diffusion and in certifying both as global and reliable solutions for the future of commercial CO2 refrigeration,” Mastrapasqua said. “The data analysis of the three Italian pilot projects and four replica prototypes in Romania and Spain, installed in collaboration with Epta Iberia and DAAS, will be presented during the Life-C4R Project digital conference, scheduled for July 1.”

The event will be an opportunity to gain in-depth knowledge on the plan’s innovations, lessons learnt and the advantages of the FTE 2.0 and ETE technologies, using the results collected in store by retailers, Epta said, adding that those interested in attending the conference could do so by registering at https://blog.eptarefrigeration.com/en/life-c4r.

FTE 2.0, Epta said, represents the evolution of its patented FTE Full Transcritical Efficiency system. It is recommended at any temperature and is, therefore, a must for obtaining maximum efficiency above 37 degrees C, it said. Simple, efficient, reliable and industrialised, FTE uses flooded evaporators, it said. They allow for the difference between the evaporation temperature and the cabinet’s internal temperature to be significantly reduced and, therefore, for an energy consumption 10% lower than a traditional CO2 system, it claimed.

This is a simple solution, the company said, where it has mechanically added only a multilevel liquid receiver to the standard configuration. On the one hand, FTE reduces the compressors’ discharge temperature, allowing for smooth functioning at high temperatures, it said. On the other hand, it guarantees their perfect lubrication, favouring a longer life cycle of the component itself, it said. FTE also guarantees up to 20% lower installation and maintenance costs, it added. Finally, the FTE 2.0 version, which is integrated into the rack, takes up less space and reduces installation and start-up times, it further added.

The ETE, Epta said, allows for 100% cooling capacity to be reached even in the hottest climates, both in industrial and commercial refrigeration applications. Recommended at temperatures between 30 degrees C and 40 degrees C, it guarantees maximum savings over 40 degrees C, also in combination with FTE, the company claimed. In this case, the transcritical CO2 system is guaranteed to work perfectly at any latitude, even on non-booster systems and in industrial refrigeration, it said. ETE’s “secret” is contained in the refrigerant temperatures’ reduction before its distribution to end users, it said. As it leaves the air exchanger at a value close to the ambient temperature, the gas is further cooled, it said. The system, it added, allows for an almost total disappearance of “flash-gas”, creating significant energy savings over time and smooth functioning even well above 40 degrees C.

An Inadequate Reaction

“It’s still mainly business as usual,” says Daniel de Graaf, Scientific Assistant at the German Environment Agency, who believes that the air conditioning and refrigeration sector’s adoption of low-GWP refrigerants in the country remains inadequate. This, he says, is the case despite stakeholders encountering problems with procuring refrigerants owing to the European F-Gas Regulation (Regulation (EU) No 517/2014), citing recent reports of refrigerant theft to highlight the sense of desperation in the market. “We had a wake-up call, last year, when refrigerant prices went through the ceiling,” he says. “In January 2017, in Germany, you paid EUR 100 for 12.6 kg cylinder of R 134a. Now it’s EUR 600 or even more.” Regarding R-404A, which is the standard refrigerant for commercial uses, such as supermarket refrigeration, de Graaf says, the price hike was even more dramatic at approximately 1,000% in one year and a half.

De Graaf says that due to the CO2 equivalent based HFC phase down approach of the F-Gas Regulation, there is lack of clarity about the question, ‘Which refrigerant is future-proof for the European market and which is not?’ This becomes more obvious with prohibitions, which have been put down for some applications in Annex III of the F-gas Regulation, for example, for household or air conditioning appliances. “With portable air conditioners,” he explains, “you’re only allowed to sell appliances that use refrigerants with a GWP of 150 or less, from 2020 on. In this segment, you have a complete halt for HFCs, with prohibition of mini-splits containing refrigerants with a GWP of more than 750 from 2025.” But even more important, de Graaf stresses, is the prohibition to the placing on the market of stationary refrigeration plants using refrigerants with a GWP of more than 2,500, such as R-404A, starting from 2020.

While the F-Gas Regulation provides a framework to restrict the amount of HFC, de Graaf says it is up to the market to find the most economical solution. “The problem is people do not want to adopt accordingly, because sometimes it just blows away their business case,” he says. “If you sell chillers with HFCs and made a lot of money and you are told you have to use something else — propane or ammonia, for instance — that’s not what you had as a business case. This is especially true if you don’t only sell the chillers but also the HFC refrigerant for the chillers. Natural refrigerants are definitely no business case for HFC or HFO manufacturers.” Rolf Werner, Director, Application Engineering, Wieland, adds that for manufacturers, there is a lack of clarity on the type of refrigerant that will take the lead in the market. “We can see CO2 applications on the rise for supermarkets and buildings,” he says. “That’s clear, but for all of the other refrigerants, it’s quite unclear and uncertain.” Maciej Danielak, Export Sales Director, Kampann, weighs in, saying that the increasing prices of refrigerant have paved the way for water-based systems, which has seen an uptake, adding that the companies dealing with refrigerants are looking to complement and expand their portfolio.

Dr. Karin Jahn, Technical Manager, Sector department, Refrigeration and Heat Pump Technology, VDMA, believes that the current environmental policy framework in Germany is boosting the demand for climate-friendly solutions in the refrigeration sector, stressing that the European F-Gases Regulation and the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol have triggered a lively discussion in the market about the use of various refrigerants, with renewed interest in natural alternatives.

De Graaf stresses that that there is further scope for natural refrigerants to be used, saying that manufacturers and end-users are settling for interim solutions that are unable to cope with looming targets. “R-32 is becoming more and more prominent in the market, when it comes to room air conditioners,” he says, “but R-32 still has a high GWP of 675. We need to get down to an average GWP of roughly 400 by 2030 — that’s still quite a gap to close. R-32 is not a final solution, but it’s what is marketed a lot right now in Germany and throughout Europe.”

Bottlenecks in the adoption of natural refrigerants, de Graaf says, can also be partially attributed to lack of training. Dr Jahn adds that many installers and workers are interested in converting existing refrigeration systems and ensuring the viability of future systems to be installed; however, the planning, installation and operation of systems with flammable refrigerants demands special legal expertise and safety-engineering know-how.

De Graaf believes craftsmen and technicians are the stakeholders that should be addressed, as they are the ones reluctant to move away from standard HVAC refrigerants and deal with flammable or toxic alternatives, with many apprehensive towards even R-32 appliances.

Dr Jahn remains optimistic, however, saying that the fundamentally high standard of training systems in Germany puts the industry in a very good position. “In principle, the training programmes in Germany are so broad that the graduates are familiar with all established refrigerant alternatives,” she says, “whether natural refrigerants, synthetic refrigerants or blends, and are able to pursue respective developments in refrigeration and air-conditioning companies.” Even so, Dr Jahn says that there remains a high demand for special seminars and courses to keep them up to date with the latest legislation and engineering developments.

De Graaf adds that, of late, there are a number of incentives, namely support programmes where end users can get money from the German government when opting for equipment with natural refrigerants. He also believes that investment into the development of new solutions with natural refrigerants makes economic sense for manufacturers, since they are F-Gas Regulation-proof also in the long run and outperform HFC as well as HFO equipment energetically. The latter is also important for end users, who accept higher initial investment costs when, due to lower energy costs, life cycle costs are equal or lower compared to HFC equipment.

Even with existing innovations, however, de Graaf expresses his concern at manufacturers’ reluctance towards introducing products to the market, citing instances wherein a manufacturer that received the German Blue Angel ecolabel certification for his product in March 2018, still refrained from introducing it to the market. “There are some other manufacturers, as well, for single split appliances with R-290 that still refrain from bringing them to the market because of the safety issue,” he says, “but they may be a little bit too cautious in this respect. In India, one such manufacturer sold 600,000 units, which are installed with no incident because technicians had proper training.” As such, de Graaf issues a plea to manufacturers that have solutions in their portfolio, “Please be a little braver in bringing your energy-efficient and climate- friendly solutions to the German and European market.”

GCCA invites stakeholders to participate in Million Cool Roofs Challenge

Arlington, Virginia, United States, 21 March 2019: The Global Cool Cities Alliance (GCCA) is inviting stakeholders to participate in the Million Cool Roofs Challenge, which will award USD 1 million to the team most successful in spurring the installation of a million square metres of cool roofs by the end of 2020, said Kurt Shickman, Executive Director, GCCA.

Shickman added, “The Million Cool Roofs Challenge is aimed at providing a billion-plus people globally that economically and physically won’t have access to mechanical or electrical cooling, with cooling through passive means.” A project of the Kigali Cooling Efficiency Program (K-CEP), in collaboration with the Global Cool Cities Alliance, Sustainable Energy for All and Nesta’s Challenge Prize Centre, the Challenge aims to “promote sustainable cooling through the rapid scaling of cool roofs in countries, where large numbers of people are facing heat stress risks”.

Elaborating on the mechanics, Shickman said that up to 10 teams will be given grants worth USD100,000 to deploy solar-reflective coating and materials in developments within an eligible country between August 2019 and December 2020. Eligible countries, he said, are those that are signatories of the Kigali amendment. The winning team that will be able to successfully spur the installation of a million square metres of cool roofs by the end of 2020 and meet the judging criteria will be awarded USD 1 million by 2021. According to the GCCA website, materials should also meet minimum performance standards and be applied to roofs of buildings regularly occupied by people.

Shickman said that the grants aim to boost market awareness and performance of cool roofs, globally. Since the announcement, Shickman said, there has been strong expression of interest from both public- and private-sector organisations. Shickman stressed that applications for the grants are still open and that teams from eligible countries can submit completed entry forms until May 20.

For more information on the eligibility, judging criteria and how to apply, visit: https://www.coolroofschallenge.org/apply

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