HCs in light-commercial refrigeration & AC: Global rollout strategies and market potential for developing countries 

By Simon Burkel, Jun 05, 2013, 18:58 4 minute reading

From 3-4 June 2013, the UNIDO ATMOsphere Technology Summit brought together decision makers from developing and developed countries to discuss the technical and commercial viability of natural refrigerants. Light-commercial refrigeration systems supplier AHT and consumer brand Red Bull stressed the ongoing success story of HCs around the world, and air-conditioning supplier Midea is expected to launch an R290 air-conditioning system soon.  

From 3-4 June, the UNIDO ATMOsphere Technology Summit was held at the UNIDO headquarters in Vienna. The conference attracted more than 150 industry stakeholders and decision makers from Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East as well as North and South America to discuss practical solutions for overcoming the challenges developing countries face while introducing natural substances. 
Most developing countries are in the process of choosing HCFC replacement technologies. Minimising the climate impact of these replacement technologies is an aspect receiving more and more attention by countries when setting out their phase-out plans. The increasing availability of replacement technologies with low-GWP natural substances, as well as the urgency to address climate change, provides the opportunity to “leapfrog” HFCs and transition directly to natural-based solutions.
530,000 HC cabinets around the world; 50% energy savings in Thailand
Reinhold Resch, representing Austrian manufacturer AHT, provided an overview of the company’s successful global strategy in rolling out commercial freezers using R290 refrigerants in developing countries like China, Thailand, Brazil and India. The company’ factories in Austria and China have so far supplied more than 530,000 R290 cabinets to countries around the world. In Thailand, AHT has already installed a total of 2,750 (64 units per store on average) R290 cabinets across the country. On average, the hydrocarbon freezer can achieve a 60% reduction in running costs compared to conventional open top freezers. In one of its installations in the SIAM MAKRO store in Thailand, an R290 freezer helps the supermarket reduce its electricity consumption by 50% in comparison to an R404A system and cuts carbon emission by 404 tons per year. 
Barriers preventing global consumer brands from adopting natural solutions in developing countries
Natural solutions have been identified as a clear choice by leading consumer brands for their refrigeration systems worldwide. Representing Red Bull and global initiative Refrigerants, Naturally! Jürgen Brenneis summarised Red Bull’s activities focused on replacing fluorinated gases in refrigeration systems with natural refrigerants ammonia, carbon dioxide and hydrocarbons (R600a, R290, R1270). Member companies of Refrigerants, Naturally! including The Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo, Unilever and Red Bull have collectively placed more than 2.5 million HFC-free refrigeration units in almost all countries around the world and phased out more than 1 million tons of CO2 emissions equivalent, based on the avoided HFC refrigerant emissions. Red Bull alone has so far introduced 313,000 HFC-free units globally and aims to replace its entire fleet of close to 1 million units with HCs, aiming at a 100% HC procurement worldwide in 2014, except for Japan and the USA.
In the presentation Brenneis introduced the challenges Red Bull faced  in introducing even more HFC-free equipment in their branches in developing countries. The key barriers include:
  • After sales capabilities
  • Component availability
  • Approvals and certificates
  • Legal and trade barriers.

Brenneis called on the governments of developing counties to work together with global consumer brands to find viable solutions so as to facilitate the introduction of more equipment using natural substances. 
The Barriers and Ways to Develop R290 RAC in China, Li Tingxun, Midea
Li Tingxun from Midea, one of the largest Chinese manufacturers of air conditioners and compressors, introduced latest research and development of their R290 room air conditioner (RAC) in China. According to Dr. Li, with the financial support of United Nations Multilateral Fund (MLF), since 2010 Midea has allocated substantial resources to develop R290 in air-conditioning and refrigeration systems . After more than 3 years’ R&D, Midea has developed 3 generations of R290 RAC and tested 60 demonstration models in several different regions of China. This year, Midea will finalise its production line for R290 RAC, of 2HP, equipped with inverter. 
In his presentation, Dr. Li provided an overview of barriers for the uptake of R290 AC in China. Safety considerations and charge restrictions remain important barriers for a wide market acceptance. However, Dr. Li stressed that these barriers can be solved. Midea has successfully received certification from the China National Product Quality Supervision and Test Centre (CQST), which demonstrates their R290 RAC can even work in a flammable atmosphere. 
The fact that currently there are not enough R290 AC products in the field was debated in the Q&A that followed the session. In reaction, one representative reminded participants that a capacity of 5 million HC AC units per year is coming online soon as a result of the 18 manufacturing plants that China has committed to convert to hydrocarbons.
Dr. Li confirmed that: “Environmentally friendly technology should be the right direction for the RAC industry.” He continued: “Although China’s domestic market is not yet ready for R290 RAC and Midea has not decided in which part of China to sell the product first, we are quite sure we need to build the production line and be ready for the market.”


By Simon Burkel

Jun 05, 2013, 18:58

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