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CO2: The Low GWP refrigerant driving adoption 

article Published on 2022-06-14

For businesses large and small, at the enterprise level or retail level, the importance of sustainability has never been more important. The evolution of sustainability and climate consciousness in the last decade has morphed from a “nice to have” to a necessity for businesses looking to satisfy consumers and investors, comply with increasingly eco-centric government regulations and take a firm ethical stance on their operations.

According to The Global Sustainability Study 2021, conducted by global strategy and pricing consultancy Simon Kucher & Partners, sustainability is rated as a important purchase criterion for 60 percent of consumers. Additionally, the firm believes it will be a critical part of core business.

“As expectations around sustainability climb, companies will face significant pressure to prove their sustainability credentials and continue to make it a part of their value proposition.”

– Dr. Andreas von der Gathen, co-CEO of Simon-Kutcher.

Which is why the Global Warming Potential (GWP) conversation in commercial refrigeration and cold storage is now squarely on Low GWP refrigerants. In January of this year, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) began enforcing landmark legislation to phase out HFC usage by requiring any new installations of refrigeration equipment with more than 50lbs of refrigerant charge to be beneath a GWP of 150. And, it’s likely other states will soon follow suit, which means natural refrigerants – specifically carbon dioxide (CO2) – will be widely adopted in North America.

CO2 is setting the standard for eco-friendly refrigeration

Why is CO2 an ideal refrigeration for low GWP adoption? It has mostly to do with its natural characteristics. It has a GWP of 1, which will keep it insulated from regulatory phaseout in the decades to come – no matter how tight future regulations become.

This gives companies a dual benefit. First, they can source a natural refrigerant that has far less environmental impact than HFCs and even A2L blends, and second, they can be assured that switching to CO2 systems will never require them to undergo costly and complex retrofits.

In addition, CO2 is neither flammable nor toxic. From an operations standpoint, companies can feel safe knowing they’re operating with less risk. Other low GWP refrigerants such as ammonia (NH3) and propane (R-290) have similar and even lower GWP than CO2, but can present issues with flammability and toxicity.

Depending on the application, they may not satisfy all a business’ needs in a refrigerant. Simply put, CO2 checks more boxes.

“Smart adopters understand refrigerant regulations are always evolving. They want to go green, be energy efficient and stay ahead of the next shift. Many have found a great way to stay on this path is through the early adoption of CO2, which also makes for an easy transition to low GWP standards.”

– Grady McAdams, director of cold storage sales at Heatcraft Refrigeration Products

CO2 technology is here

Another contributing factor to CO2’s rise in popularity in Europe and North America is the emergence of CO2 transcritical systems. Significant research, development and production of CO2-ready solutions makes it easier for companies to match their equipment to specific applications across the industry, such as process cooling, cold storage and blast chilling, with relative ease.

Manufacturers have worked quickly to develop these technologies and companies are seeing early successes in:

  • Energy efficiency and energy rebates
  • Increased production
  • Reduced maintenance costs, refrigerant loss
  • Lower overall total cost of ownership (TCO)
  • Regulatory compliance and fine avoidance

More low GWP substitutes are likely to enter the marketplace in the coming years, but CO2 is in a prime position to be the market leader. To learn more about CO2, it’s characteristics and whether it’s right for your business, contact the experts at Heatcraft.