CO2

Here in the United States most of our ice rinks rather they be hockey stadiums or a kids ice-skating park were and are mostly powered by the common HCFC R-22 refrigerant. As you all know R-22 was phased down back in 2010 and is in the process of being phased out entirely. The question on the owners minds of these complexes is with what refrigerant should they replace their older R-22 systems with? Is there a preferred one out there?

Over in the European Union they have been a big fan of R-717 (Ammonia.) in their ice rinks. Ammonia has been used since the 1930s as a refrigerant. It is actually referred to as one of the most efficient refrigerants out there as it has a low boiling point and it is highly energy efficient. On top of that you have no Ozone depletion risk and zero Global Warming Potential. It all sounds too good to be true, right? Here’s the catch folks, R-717 is classified as a B2L refrigerant on toxicity and flammability. The ‘B’ means that it is toxic if inhaled and the ‘2L’ means that it is slightly flammable.

If an Ammonia leak does occur it has to be taken very seriously. There was an incident towards the end of last year up in British Columbia that resulted in three fatalities due to the toxicity of the Ammonia leaking into the building. During the leak the event center had to be evacuated along with any neighboring businesses or homes. I wrote an article about this tragic event which can be found by clicking here. This example right here is why the US has been skiddish about adopting R-717 and the end all be all replacement for R-22. Originally, R-22 was chosen for ice rinks here in the US due to it’s low toxicity. If a person breathed in R-22 there would be no ill effects. So, what other options are out there besides R-22 and R-717? There are some Ammonia advocates here in the US but since this incident occurred just north of our border the skepticism on R-717 has only increased.

CO2 to the rescue?

Most of you who have been following the industry over the past couple years know exactly where I am going. It seems that everything is either moving towards the new HFO refrigerant line from Chemours/Honeywell or they are moving to R-744 (Carbon Dioxide.) I don’t care if you look at vending machines, refrigerated units in supermarkets, or even in ice rinks. CO2/R-744 is showing up everywhere. CO2, like Ammonia, has no Ozone depletion and has a GWP of one. Here’s the best part though it’s rated as a A1 in toxicity and flammability. That means it is NOT toxic or flammable. The downside of CO2 is that it operates at a MUCH higher pressure then other refrigerants on the market. This higher pressure can cause components to fail prematurely.

When I was going through my research tonight I found an article from a local news station out of Alaska. The article took place in Wasilla, a small town north of Anchorage. The town only has a population of about eight-thousand people. (My kind of town!) Their ice rink is one of their larger attractions, but it is over thirty years old and is dealing with an antiquated R-22 system. We all know how much the price of R-22 has gone up these days. Can you imagine recharging a one-thousand pound system? The cost would be astronomical. Imagine having to try and absorb that expense into your P&L for the year.

Luckily for the town of Wasilla there was a twenty-two million bond that was passed by the voters back in October of 2016. Three million dollars of that twenty-two will be going towards removing the old R-22 system on this ice rink and replacing it with a new R-744 CO2 system. On top of that massive expense the complex will also be closed for Spring and Summer while the construction is completed. The goal of completion is set for Labor Day.

This is such a laborious and expensive process as there is just no easy way to retrofit or replace an aging R-22 ice rink system. These installations are massive and when working with a completely different refrigerant such as R-22 nearly everything will have to be replaced. Remember now that CO2 operates at a MUCH higher pressure than R-22. Most of the components will have to be reinforced in order to accommodate this increase in pressure.

Conclusion

Are our only choices today R-744 and R-717? Is there going to be an HFO alternative out there that we can expect? Through my research tonight I wasn’t able to find an HFO refrigerant that could be used for these ice rink applications. I may have overlooked them but I have a feeling that the ice rink market is very niche within the refrigerant industry and Honeywell and Chemours are more focused on the R-404A or R-410A replacements. If any of you know of any please let me know.

I fear that these pricey conversions and retrofits over to these new systems could put a lot of ice rinks out of business. I already know of one in my area that has closed within the past couple years. Just think about that three million dollar number we spoke of earlier. That’s just one complex. That is one hell of an expense. What can these owners do? Do they keep holding out on their dying R-22 systems hoping and praying that they don’t have a leak or a failure? Or, do they bite the bullet and hope they can afford the cost of the new system? That’s not even mentioning the downtime the business would face while the new system is installed. Every day their doors are closed is money being lost.

I’m all for switching to newer refrigerants but like with anything there are going to be winners and losers here.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

The grocery store chain Aldi has announced their intention to switch all of their stores in the United Kingdom to CO2 refrigerant. (Also known as R-744.) Their goal is by the end of the year 2018, just over twelve months from now, that one-hundred of their stores will be fully converted over to R-744. This is a twenty million Euro investment for the German based company. That’s equal to about twenty-three and a half million dollars. This is just the start for their conversion as Aldi has over seven-hundred stores in the United Kingdom and plans to open up another three-hundred over the next couple years. All of these stores will be using CO2 as their main refrigerant source.

There are two main reasons Aldi has made this decision. The first is to become compliant with the European Union F-Gas regulations that come into effect in 2030. (For more information on the EU’s F-Gas Regulation please click here.) Like most other countries around the world the European Union has agreed to phase-out HFC refrigerants entirely. These refrigerants include R-404A, R-410A, and R-134a. (There are others, but these are the most popular.) The plan is to cut the availability of HFC refrigerants by seventy-nine percent between the years 2015 and 2030. Only companies with approved EU quotas will be able to supply, manufacture, or import HFC refrigerants. A full schedule of the phase-out can be seen in the picture below:
F-Gas HFC Phaseout

The second reason Aldi made this decision was for it’s impact on the environment. Sure, you can say that the environment was their primary reason but they are a business and they weighed the pros/cons and the cost involved in switching now or switching later when they got closer to the 2030 deadline. Switching now made more financial sense. By switching over to CO2, or R-744, Aldi will be reducing their gas carbon emissions down by ninety-nine percent and will see an annual decrease of over fifteen-million in Global Warming Potential. CO2 refrigerant has a GWP of 1. That is a HUGE difference when comparing it to the commonly used R-404A refrigerant which has a GWP of 3,922! You can begin to see why governments have been pushing to phase these HFC refrigerants out.

CO2 R-744 Refrigerant

R-744 refrigerant is becoming increasingly popular across the world. It’s ironic really as CO2 was one of the first widely used refrigerants in the world. Let’s go back one-hundred years. Chances are if you went to a movie theater on a hot summer day in the 1920s that the movie theater would have been cooled by CO2. You’d step in from the heat and feel the cool and relaxing air and then watch yourself a Charlie Chaplin film.

The problem with CO2 back then, and today, is that it requires an extremely high pressure to operate in a refrigeration cycle. This high pressure caused units and parts to break repeatedly. It was during the depression when a new cheaper alternative refrigerant was discovered. The CFC R-12. The moment R-12 was discovered it took off and was soon found in every application across the globe. Next came R-22, and so on and so on.

So, we went from CO2 > CFCs > HCFCs > HFCs > and now back to CO2. We’ve come full circle folks. The difference here is that with today’s technology, new parts, and equipment the extremely high pressure of CO2 is no longer a problem. We have stronger, tougher, and better tools and parts to compensate for this pressure. Now the big concern is danger to the earth and the climate. R-744 is one of the most logical answers here.

Conclusion

Like it or not folks natural refrigerants, like CO2, are going to be part of our future. HFCs are going away and the HCFCs are pretty much gone already. We have two choices. We are either going all in on the new HFO refrigerants or we are going back in time to the days of Natural Refrigerants such as CO2 or Ammonia. Which do you prefer?

If and when you do come across a CO2 unit just think of yourself as honoring the past. You’re honoring the memories of your grandparents and maybe even their parents. The people who pioneered this technology we are now using today.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

Australia to phase out HFC refrigerants by 2036.

While there still hasn’t been a formal amendment added to the Montreal Protocol to phase out HFC refrigerants across the world there are many countries that are taking pro-active steps to phase out HFC refrigerants such as R-410A, R-404A, and R-134a. The United States announced phase-out measures that they would be taking in the summer of 2015. The European Union has been even more proactive and has already completely phased out R-134a refrigerant across their various countries.

Australia has now committed to phase down their HFC refrigerant usage by eighty-five percent by the year 2036. This scheduled phasedown will begin in the year 2018 and is predicted to be completed over an eighteen year period. The Montreal Protocol’s HFC amendment is expected to pass towards the end of 2016 and implementation to begin in 2018 or 2019. Australia is just getting a head start before the mandate is pushed down to the rest of the world.

At this time the go to replacement products are HFO refrigerants such as 1234YF or Natural Refrigerants such as CO2. New HFOs are being developed to this very day by companies like Honeywell and Chemours. Using natural refrigerants, like CO2, is ironic for us as when the refrigeration market was first being developed CO2 was one of the FIRST refrigerants used in large commercial buildings like movie theatres. When refrigerant was discovered, a much cheaper alternative, CO2 began to go away and be replaced by the much cheaper R-12 and eventually R-22.

Even though it seems we just started using HFC refrigerants, and regardless what anyone thinks about them, the world powers have deemed that HFCs are bad and that they will be going away over the next decade. The question is are you, or your business, ready for the change?

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

Owner.

Sources:

 

 

 

Kroger Opens New Store using R-744 (CO2)

Late last year the Obama administration announced that they were partnering with various companies across the country in transitioning away from HFC refrigerants and instead using new climate friendly alternatives.

Now, this measure was voluntary. No one had to sign on, but I would assume the companies who did sign on did this for the good press. One of those companies that pledged to reduce their impact on the environment was Kroger.

The exact excerpt from the ‘Obama Administration Climate Change Fact Sheet,’ is below. You can also click this link to read the full text. (I warn you it’s long.)

Kroger, one of the world’s largest retailers, announced today that it will join U.S. EPA’s GreenChill program. Kroger, in joining GreenChill, commits to establishing a refrigerant inventory and set emissions reduction targets; using advanced refrigeration technologies in new and remodeled stores where feasible; collaborating across the industry to identify and share service and operational practices that reduce emissions. Kroger is committed to reducing climate-damaging refrigerant emissions and exploring new designs that reduce the potential for these emissions.

As you can see Kroger agreed to shrink their impact on the environment and to try new refrigerants. That meant doing away with R-404A and moving on to either HFOs or Natural Refrigerants.

The New Store

Well, Kroger has just now opened their first new store that uses strictly R-744, or Carbon Dioxide refrigerant. The new store is located in Holland, Michigan and a few press release articles can be found by clicking here and here.

They actually closed down two stores in this same city and replaced it with this giant new building. If you wanted to test CO2 this would be the place to do it. The building and the amount of units is massive.

Switching away from 404A over to R-744 is said to reduce Kroger’s Carbon Footprint by over forty percent for each store. This is quite the impact and it is supposed to save them on utility bills as well.

Now, even though this is the first store to open with CO2 I would imagine that many more are to come and existing stores may even be retrofitted. If Kroger is saving energy costs on the new refrigerant and they are in the good graces of the government why wouldn’t they switch more units over?

R-744 Facts

R-744 is a natural refrigerant that has been used for over one-hundred and fifty years. It really began to see widespread use in the early 1900s through 1920s but it eventually dissipated due to the Great Depression and due to the high pressure that CO2 operates under.

In recent years it has seen a new awakening mainly due to companies looking for alternatives to the climate damaging HFC refrigerants such as R-134a, R-404A, and R-410A.

R744 has many benefits over other common refrigerants:

  • It does not have any chlorine in it and thus does not damage the O-Zone layer.
  • It’s Global Warming Potential is 1. This is quite the difference when compared to R-134a’s GWP of 1,548.
  • It is non-toxic.
  • It is non-flammable.
  • It is far more efficient over it’s competitors.

The drawback of CO2 is the pressure it operates under. In the past CO2 was difficult to work with as the high pressure caused many applications and parts to fail routinely. In 2015 the technology has improved substantially and the high pressure can be accommodated more smoothly.

Conclusion

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. HFCs are dying and will be phasing out soon. Sooner than you think. The question which refrigerant is going to prevail? Is it going to be the new HFOs that DuPont and Honeywell are working on or it will be the Natural Refrigerants such as CO2 and Propane? Time will tell.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

Owner.

 

Germany Automakers Rebelling Against 1234YF

Well folks it looks like the automotive refrigerant market is going to be split into two. Today, most everybody is still using R-134a as the main refrigerant for automotive applications. If you have been working on newer cars you may have seen some vehicles with the HFO 1234YF systems. R-134a is being phased out across the world due to it’s high global warming potential of over 1,000. In the European Union R-134a was banned in the year of 2011. All new cars manufactured in Europe have to be using a refrigerant with a Global Warming Potential of less than 150.

The European Union chose the HFO 1234YF as it’s primary replacement and it’s not just Europe that is switching over to the HFO. General Motors announced that all of it’s vehicles will be switching over to 1234YF with a goal date of 2018. Chrysler announced that they would be switching over as well. Not to mention various other foreign manufactures. It seems like HoneyWell, DuPont, and the all of the major manufacturers are pushing for 1234YF. After all, it is a viable alternative to the harmful 134a being used today… or is it?

Germany Automakers Warn Against 1234YF

Remember how I said almost every automotive manufacturer is switching over to 1234YF? Well, I did say almost. The German manufacturers Daimler and now Volkswagen have declared that they will NOT be using 1234YF in any of their vehicles. Their reasoning stems from some tests that Daimler did in 2012 testing the safety of 1234YF. In two-thirds of the tests that Daimler conducted the 1234YF refrigerant ignited when the compressor ruptured and the refrigerant gas hit the hot engine. This test is designed to simulate a head on collision. When Daimler did the same tests with R-134a the refrigerant did not ignite. You can read more about this by clicking on this link to Daimler’s website. On top of the flammability Daimler also found that the refrigerant can emit toxic hydrogen fluoride gas when it burns. So, your car will be on fire and you’ll be choking to death. Good times…

After these tests were completed the German Transit Authority did it’s own tests but they were not able to replicate the results that Daimler had. On top of that the European Union did additional tests as well as DuPont and Honeywell. All tests came back negative. Daimler didn’t care about these other tests and claimed that they will NOT be using 1234YF in any of their vehicles. Instead, Daimler went forward on designing a CO2, or R-744, refrigerant system for their vehicles. On top of Daimler switching to CO2 it was announced this week that Volkswagen will be transitioning over to CO2 instead of 1234YF. The official article is in German, so I’ll post a small article from The Cooling Post about the announcement.

The Split

Well, with Daimler, Volkswagen, Porsche, Audi, and BMW all switching over to CO2 and the rest of the world using 1234YF we now have a split in the automotive air conditioning market. So, if you’re a mechanic and occasionally work on German cars you are now going to have to know your way around 134a systems, 1234YF systems, and CO2 systems. Obviously, this is inconvenient for everybody, but I can’t really complain as the German automakers firmly believe that they are making the right decision here. If I saw the tests that they had I would probably be pushing for CO2 as well. At the same time though, there have been hundreds of other tests that showed the refrigerant works fine. Are the German companies being stubborn, or is there legitimate concern?

Conclusion

The automotive air conditioning market is in a state of flux right now. 134a is banned in the European Union but still active in the US. The EU has switched over to 1234YF except for Germany who has switched to CO2. The USA is still majorly using 134a and slowly moving over to 1234YF. Asian markets are moving to 1234YF as well. The tide is with 1234YF but who knows what will happen. All it takes is one or tow bad accidents with 1234YF to prove Germany was right.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

Owner.

 

 

CO2 Refrigeration Systems

CO2 The Natural Refrigerant Gaining Popularity… Again.

Well ladies and gentlemen it seems that we have come full circle in the past hundred years on refrigerants. We started with CO2 and now we’re circling right back to it. Every time I’m writing one of these articles about phasing out refrigerants I can’t help but chuckle. It seems that whenever we get close to the ‘perfect’ refrigerant something is found wrong with it. Either it depletes the Ozone, it has a high global warming potential, or it’s too flammable.

CO2 History

R-744 refrigerant, or CO2, was one of the first refrigerants invented and widely used in the late 1800s and early 1900s. We were using CO2 even before R-12 Refrigerant was invented. The idea of using CO2 as a refrigerant dates back to the 1850s and the first legitimate patent on CO2 was all the way back in 1867 Thaddeus S.C. Lowe. 

The idea was picked up again in Germany in the 1890s when Franz Windhausen of Germany designed the first carbon dioxide compressor and his design was purchased by J&E Hall of Great Britain. Here it began to see widespread use on cargo ships throughout Europe.  In America CO2 saw widespread use as well in ice machines, ships, and entertainment venues. Even the first movie theaters in the 1920s were cooled with CO2 refrigerants.

R-744 was eventually phased out due to two main reasons:

  • The Great Depression played a big part in the phase out of R-744. Refrigeration became a luxury that a lot of people just could not afford and the demand crashed.
  • R-744 is notoriously high pressure. Unfortunately, the technology in the early 20th century just wasn’t there  to keep the CO2 equipment running smoothly. The new R-12 Refrigerant was the easier choice as it did not have the high pressure complications that CO2 did.

CO2 is Coming Back!

I’ve been watching the refrigeration industry over the past year and I am definitely seeing the trend of CO2 making a resurgence. The reason we’re seeing this is mainly due to the phase outs of refrigerants in the late 20th century and the early 21st century.

First we phased out the CFCs and HCFCs due to their ODP, or Ozone Depletion Potential. These were phased across the world in accordance to the Montreal Protocol and the world transitioned over to HFC refrigerants such as R-404A, R-410A, and R-134a.

Well now it’s been found that HFC refrigerants have an extremely high Global Warming Potential. So, now that we’ve spent all this time switching everybody over to the HFCs there is now a push to phase out the HFCs. The question is what is going to replace the HFCs?

There are many companies and experts suggesting various refrigerants and alternatives and one of those alternatives happens to be CO2.

Benefits  and Drawbacks of CO2

CO2 offers a variety of benefits when comparing it to the refrigerants that are in use today:

  • No Ozone depletion potential.
  • Global Warming Potential is 1. (R-134a is over 1,000)
  • Non-Toxic
  • Non-Flammable
  • Far more efficient than other refrigerants.
    • Save everybody some money on their energy bills!

Now, I am not an expert here but the only drawback that I can see on CO2 systems is that is a very high pressure refrigerant. Back in the day this caused a lot of parts to fail and fail often. However, I believe in the 21st century that we have the technology to utilize CO2 and to do it safely. Keep in mind that you will need specially designed systems to handle CO2.

So, Who’s Using CO2 Now?

I’ve found quite a few articles on recent CO2 usage and I even found a website specifically dedicated to CO2 that can be found here http://r744.com.

I won’t go into detail about EVERY company that is using CO2 but here are some examples:

  • CO2 is used during the transportation/storage of ice cream and as most of you may know ‘Dry Ice,’ is CO2 in solid form.
  • Coca-Cola announced a few years ago that they would be discontinuing all usage of HFCs in their vending machines and would be transitioning over R-744.
    • Article can be found here.
    • Now, Coca-Cola fell short of their announced goal as you can read here, but as of today they have over 1.4 million CO2 vending machines on the market. This number is only expected to grow and other companies have begun to follow suit.
  • I found this article the other day detailing the first CO2 ice skating rink in Alaska. Ice skating rinks using CO2 is common place in Canada and is expected to spread in other parts of Alaska.
    • Article is here.
      • Now, I have to say this… but why does an ice rink in Alaska need cooled? It’s freaking Alaska!
  • Large supermarkets and grocers have begun to switch to CO2. I found a great article from ACHRNews on this.

I can keep listing examples, but I feel that this gives a taste of what’s to come with CO2.

CO2 versus HFOs?

Besides CO2 one of the other alternative refrigerants that is coming to market are the HFOs produced by DuPont and Honeywell. I won’t get too deep into this but I have a feeling that as time goes on we’re going to see a ‘war’ between CO2 and it’s HFO counterparts. Are we going to be using 1234YF in our automobiles five years from now or will we be using CO2? How about for our super markets? Even residential?  At this point it’s too early to tell what’s going to happen but it is exciting to see the innovation that is coming to the market.

Conclusion

As I stated in the beginning of this post it feels like we’ve gone in full circle…. and maybe that was how it was supposed to go. With this industry it feels like it’s impossible to predict anything. Regardless, CO2 is coming back and you best be ready!

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

Owner.

 

 

Is Brand Important?

Fact Sheet on DuPont’s Opteon YF HFO

I came across this link today from DuPont’s website and thought I would share. It provides a fact sheet on DuPont’s newly announced Opteon brand for automotive applications. This is the new HFO 1234YF refrigerant that has a very low Global Warming Potential. As it stands today 1234YF will be the refrigerant of the future for all automotive applications. It has a much lower global warming potential than it’s predecessor 134a and it does not contain Chlorine which could harm the O-Zone layer. All in all it sounds like a great alternative to R-134a.

DuPont Fact Sheet:

http://www2.dupont.com/Refrigerants/en_US/assets/downloads/SmartAutoAC/k21958_Opteon-YF-Fact-Sheet.pdf

1234YF Hurdles and Challenges

Logo_DaimlerThe only bumps in the road on 1234YF have been the flammability risk. There have been numerous independent tests throughout the world and all but one have come back with a very low chance of flammability. Daimler, out of Germany, completed a test that showed that during a collision and under the hot conditions of an engine environment the 1234YF refrigerant did ignite. DuPont and Honeywell both disputed this test by Daimler stating that the test was done in secret and with no third party observation involved. Daimler rejected their claims saying that test was one-hundred percent legitimate and that there was a real danger in using 1234YF. Daimler has been developing and pushing for a Carbon Dioxide refrigerant alternative. Here is a link to an article on Daimler’s site stating their favor of CO2.

CO2 Refrigerants?

Daimler in Development of CO2 Refrigerants.
Daimler in Development of CO2 Refrigerants.

Carbon Dioxide refrigerants have not seen high use in recent years but Daimler  has spent the past couple years developing a Carbon Dioxide alternative for their vehicles. CO2 refrigerants have a global warming potential of one and it is neither flammable or toxic. The downside of CO2 is that it has to be compressed at very high pressure and today’s air conditioners in vehicles cannot handle the CO2. Completely new air conditioning systems will have to be developed in order for automobiles to be able to take CO2 refrigerants. Daimler is working hard on using a CO2 alternative, but for now they are still using 134a instead of the new 1234yF.

Conclusion

The rest of the world will be using 1234YF while Daimler sticks with their 134A and developing a new CO2 alternative. But, who knows Daimler could be on to something here… is 1234YF dangerous, will Daimler be the savior of the industry with their new CO2 refrigerant and systems? Or, will Daimler be left behind while the world converts over to 1234YF?

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

Owner.