Godrej forging new pathways for hydrocarbons in India and beyond

By James Ranson, Apr 10, 2015, 12:24 5 minute reading

After developing India’s first commercially available R290 split air conditioner in 2012, Godrej & Boyce Mfg. Co has continued to work with the Indian government to implement change regarding the use of hydrocarbons refrigerants in ACs. The company’s general manager Diptendu Bhattacharya sat down with hydrocarbons21.com at HARFKO 2015 in Korea to talk regulation in India and outline Godrej’s expansion plans for the future.

Given the lack of national standards for hydrocarbons in India, Godrej developed its propane technology in collaboration with German development agency GIZ and the Indian government. Since launching the product in 2012, Godrej has sold over 100,000 RACs and now has an annual capacity of 180,000 units at its manufacturing facility near Pune. Godrej upgraded its manufacturing facility to incorporate additional safety alarms and procedures for dealing with flammable refrigerants.  
Gordrej’s Green Balance technology was designed to strike a balance between electricity consumption and environmental impact. With an Energy Efficiency Ratio of 3.9 compared to R22 and R410A (both 3.5) systems, the R290 RACs also save up to 10% compared to five-star air-conditioners. The company has since gained a market share of 13% in the five-star AC segment in India, propelling Godrej to the number three brand. Current models are restricted to 12,000 and 18,000 Btu (British thermal units) but Godrej is seeking technological cooperation with other manufacturers to achieve higher capacities, such as 24,000 Btu. 
The current hydrocarbon charge limit of 350 grams in India, based on recommendations from GIZ, is an obstacle on the road to broader adoption of the natural refrigerant.
hydrocarbons21.com: Can you tell us a little bit more about the current state of affairs in India regarding R290 policy, market and technology developments?
Diptendu Bhattacharya: The Indian government has a policy in place to phase out R22 gradually so they have introduced a rule for stopping the import of R22-based air conditioners from July 2015 onwards and gradually I think they will cap the production of R22-based air conditioners within the Indian market, but that has yet to be implemented.
In regards to alternative refrigerants, Godrej has been using R290 for the last three years. The government has not put in place any framework or policy for any specific refrigerant but they are definitely encouraging other, more eco-friendly refrigerants to come in.
hydrocarbons21.com: Are there any subsidies to support your technology?
Bhattacharya: No subsidy at all. They would like us to compete on the market and attract the customer based on the performance of the air conditioner.
hydrocarbons21.com: How would you rate awareness of your technology - are people informed about the benefits of natural refrigerant solutions? When it comes to promoting R290 ACs what is your message?
Bhattacharya: Frankly, the economic benefits of using R290 is the best way of promoting it, so rather than the eco-friendly factor, which we are informing people about, we have found that the public is more attracted to the economic benefits. R290 naturally has a much higher energy efficiency performance, so right now we are attaining a performance of about 3.9 EER (energy efficiency ratio), watt per watt, compared to about 3.5 for the R22. So in the five-star rated category of energy efficient air conditioners we have the highest rating for a normal compressor. The inverter-based models are just slightly better than us so customers find it attractive to use R290 for AC in the higher efficiency segment.
hydrocarbons21.com: Do you have an inverter line-up with R290? How many different models are you offering in India?
Bhattacharya: Not yet. In the Indian market we are offering about four models; two with a five star 3.7 EER, two with 3.9 EER. We currently have two tonnage capacities; one is 12,000 Btu and the other is 18,000 Btu, so you could say there are maybe six models, variants of two main models.
hydrocarbons21.com: What is your policy regarding the transfer of your technology to other countries?
Bhattacharya: We are very eager to do that. We have been talking to exporters over the last two years with a view to introducing the technology ot other countries. Although we have not yet sold any units outside India, we think it could be because the prices are slightly higher, at least about 15% higher than comparative R22 models. So we are trying to see how cost competitive we can become. In one or two cases, like in Mauritius, the government has abandoned the import of R22 so we’ve found that R410 has entered the market and we hear that in the Maldives the same thing is happening very soon. We are talking to exporters in a few other countries; Malaysia, Kenya and Tanzania, but sign any agreements.
hydrocarbons21.com: It is excellent to see that you are seriously considering sharing this technology.
Bhattacharya: We are very happy because we would like more and more markets to open up to R290 technology.
hydrocarbons21: Can you comment on the situation China where there is an ongoing discussion about R290? At least three manufacturers are interested in potentially offering, R290.
Bhattacharya: Frankly, all that I can say is that they are very large manufacturers and we are already in contact with them for the regular R22 products. We know that they have their own marketing operations in many other parts of the world so we expect that if they get into it in a big way then the rest of the world will accept this technology much faster.

hydrocarbons21.com: What about in Korea do you see any interest in the local market here?
Bhattacharya: Not too much, one or two visitors did come in the morning from Korea but I don’t know what the overall plans are. I’ve seen a number of manufacturers showing R410-based systems and R22 as well, so they’re a little bit behind.
hydrocarbons21.com: Are there any other countries in Asia interested in R290?
Bhattacharya: Well, I believe that Godrej as a brand is still not a very well known in a lot of markets, however, this technology is very useful and we are hopeful that we can tie up some of the Asian markets, especially the southeast Asian and the south Asian markets. These are large markets with a lot of potential, so if we can crack them I think we will see a lot of progress. The markets in Africa are not so well developed so it will take a little more time to implement. But even today there is interest there, which is encouraging.
Thank you very much!


By James Ranson

Apr 10, 2015, 12:24

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