Reducing HFC emissions in South Africa’s transport refrigeration chain

By team, Nov 24, 2015, 18:15 3 minute reading

South Africa depends largely on the trade and retail of agricultural goods, where transportation and distribution play a vital role, but, traditionally, meeting this demand has come at a significant cost to the environment.

Around 9000 refrigerated trucks and trailers deliver goods in South Africa and beyond on a daily basis. However, the transport refrigeration sector contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions in the country; it is expected that emissions in the transport refrigeration sector will increase from 2 million tons of CO2eq to over 5 million by 2020.

During a side event at the 27th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol in Dubai, Bill Wilson from Transfrig presented the case study of a climate friendly truck refrigeration system, just one solution helping to counter this trend in South Africa.

At the moment, HFCs are the most commonly used substance in the transport refrigeration sector in South Africa: trucks and trailers typically use HFC blend R404a (global warming potential (GWP) 3922) or HFC134a (GWP 1430).

The dominant refrigerants used in the transport sector therefore needed to be reconsidered in order to mitigate HFC emissions and to make energy efficiency improvements. However, the sector lacked technical expertise on how to make this transition in South Africa as alternative transport refrigeration solutions were not widely available at the time.

As a result, the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) commissioned a project on emission mitigation in the transport refrigeration sector through the introduction of innovative logistics and supply structures in South Africa. BMUB partnered with the South Africa Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and GIZ Proklima: the project started in June 2012 and is expected to run until March 2016.

Hydrocarbon solution for truck refrigeration

The BMUB project is currently in phase two, with the implementation of the pilot measures underway. One of the project’s main objectives is to develop a truck refrigeration unit with natural refrigerants. A prototype with hydrocarbon refrigerant was developed and deployed in cooperation with the South African transport refrigeration industry and research institutes.

There are three main refrigeration system suppliers in the South African market. The largest market players for trailers are Thermo King and Carrier, while the largest player for trucks is Transfrig. There are also four smaller players: Kingtec, Govet, Konvekta and Mitsubishi.

Transfrig, South African transport refrigeration company, was one of the cooperation partners on the BMUB project in regards to emission mitigation.

A pilot project on hydrocarbon technology involving Transfrig and Tshwane University has been launched to develop a climate friendly technology for refrigerated trucks. The R290 prototype was built at the end of May, 2015 and is currently undergoing testing (including for leakage and safety). From January to April 2016 the prototype will undergo a field trial.

Compared to the R404a system, R290 refrigeration technology has a GWP of just 3. In order to address R290 flammability issues, the charge size was significantly reduced from 3.5 kg to 0.65 kg. Direct emission reduction of greenhouse gases was achieved from the previous 6.9 tCO2eq to just 0.001 tCO2eq. Estimated fuel consumption is also more advantageous for the R290 system, with 1.0 L/h (compared to 1.2 L/h for R404a unit).

Properties of the new R290 refrigerated truck:
  • Uses environmentally friendly refrigerant
  • Achieves high energy efficiency, including in high ambient temperatures
  • Reduces leakage of refrigerant
  • Comprehensive safety concept for flammable refrigerants
  • Complies with safety standards

About the company

Transfrig has been building transport refrigeration units since 1980. They offer a wide range of world-class refrigeration equipment and provide sustainable service to Africa and beyond. Transfrig’s mission is to be the preferred supplier of transport refrigeration equipment in Africa and to become an internationally recognised player in the transport refrigeration equipment industry, by providing quality products and reliable service at competitive prices. Since 2002 Transfrig has expanded its reach internationally, to countries including Hong Kong, China, the Middle East, Libya, Liberia, Australia and Nigeria.


By team (@hydrocarbons21)

Nov 24, 2015, 18:15

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