ATMOsphere Asia 2014: natural refrigerants represent future market trends in Japan and beyond

By Huiting Jia, Feb 06, 2014, 10:33 4 minute reading

During the Market Trends session of ATMOsphere Asia 2014, held on 3-5 February in Japan, key Japanese system manufacturers, suppliers and food retailers discussed the latest development in natural refrigerant technologies in Japan and beyond. Providing concrete examples of state-of-the- art solutions that illustrated the event’s tagline “Technology and Innovation”, industry representatives confirmed a shift towards CO2 in commercial refrigeration, whilst Eco Cute rem

Nina Masson, Head of Market Research chaired the ATMOsphere Asia 2014 Market Trends session, and presented during the End User Panel, sessions that gathered perspectives from leading Japanese system and component suppliers, and food retailers on the latest market trends for natural refrigerants worldwide. 
Global trends and developments: natural refrigerants becoming ever more important across range of applications
Nina Masson contends that natural refrigerant solutions for many different applications, world regions and climates are already available. With at least 430 companies active in providing natural refrigerant-based solutions, products and services in Europe today, Masson predicts that commercially available solutions using CO2, ammonia, hydrocarbons, water and air as refrigerants will be available in nearly all European HVAC&R sectors in 2018-2020. 
This industry is growing and is becoming more important in terms of employment, competitiveness and supply of the components”, said Masson.
Several presentations confirmed this trend for various sectors. For example, Junya Ichikawa from Sanden discussed the success of the company’s hermetic CO2 compressor, used in commercial refrigeration units and heat pumps. Sanden has until now produced 300,000 units a year, but in 2014 the production rate is being increased to between 600,000 and 800,000 units. Pansonic’s Gaku Shimada said that as of today their CO2 technology could be found in 145 locations across Japan, from Hokaido to Okinawa, in applications ranging from convenience stores (CVS) to hypermarkets and distribution centres. 
Mayekawa is also experiencing an increased demand for their CO2 products, which include a CO2 heat pump and ammonia/CO2 refrigeration units. Around Japan, the company has already installed almost 500 ammonia/CO2 NewTon industrial refrigeration units.
Latest data on CO2 commercial refrigeration installations
In the commercial refrigeration sector, end users worldwide have started to adopt natural refrigerants on a large scale. According to Masson, worldwide there are over 3080 CO2 transcritical supermarkets and over 2020 CO2 cascade/secondary supermarkets.
In Europe the number of transcritical CO2 stores has more than doubled since shecco’s first market survey in 2012. Masson drew particular attention to the fact that Denmark remains the market leader in terms of number of installations, and also highlighted Romania’s newly opened CO2 TC store, and Italy’s plans for a further 10 CO2 TC stores. 
Natural refrigerant solutions are also becoming increasingly available in North America, a region considered to have a high potential to become a world leader in natural refrigerant technology. There are at least 22 retail brands investing in natural refrigerants, including 4 stores that have opted to trial CO2 transcritical refrigeration, in addition to end-users like Roche, which is working with Carel to install compact condensing units at their Indianapolis site for cooling pharmaceutical products. Also in North America, more than 65 CO2 TC stores have been opened by Canadian retailer Sobeys. 
Other countries where the CO2 commercial refrigeration market is showing signs of strong growth are: 
  • Brazil: the uptake of CO2 commercial refrigeration systems in Brazil is proceeding at a fast pace with 40 cascade and secondary systems already installed
  • South Africa: has 17 CO2 TC systems installed by leading retailers Makro and Woolworths
Technology trends for CO2 commercial refrigeration
Several presentations referred to two key technology trends: the development of solutions for warm climates and for convenience stores, where space is at a premium.
Both shecco’s Masson and Carel’s Michael Englebright talked about the technologies being developed to improve the efficiency of CO2 TC in climates with extended periods of high temperatures and also climates with high peak temperatures. Solutions being trialled include economizers, ejectors and sub cooling. 
Clear commitments to CO2 technology among Japanese food retailers 
There are a total 180 TC CO2 stores in Japan. Out of these, retailer AEON has 10 CO2 stores, whilst by the end of 2013 Lawson, already had 157 CO2 TC stores, making Lawson the leading natural refrigerant retailer in Japan so far. To maintain its industry leading position, in the fiscal year 2014, Lawson has planned to have 400 stores using CO2 TC.  
We would like to make natural refrigerants a standard. By the end of 2015 we plan to have 1500 natural refrigerant stores”, says Shinichirou Uto from Lawson.
Despite sales dip Eco Cute remains leading CO2 technology in Japan
According to Denso’s Naruhide Kimura, since the 2011 earthquake heat pump sales, which had reached a cumulative peak in sales of 4 million units started to decline. However the inclusion of heat pump water heaters in the Japanese Top Runner Approach in 2013 could reverse this negative trend.
There is a production capacity of over half a million units a year, so it is [Eco Cute] actually a mass product,” Marc Chasserot, ATMOsphere Asia 2014 Chairman and shecco Managing Director.
What is more, the Eco Cute sector is continuing to innovate. Whilst in the residential sector Denso has developed a multi-functional CO2 heat pump that also supports space heating, in the commercial sector Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) has developed a CO2 heat pump that is efficient at -25°C.


By Huiting Jia

Feb 06, 2014, 10:33

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