A Global Look at Refrigeration Challenges
Developed, Developing Countries Differ in Accessibility
When refrigeration is looked at from a global perspective, it is easy to discover the haves and the have not’s. Developed countries like the United States, Canada, and most nations in Europe have refrigeration systems that protect food where it is gathered at the source, transported in refrigerated containers to well-functioning and safe warehouses and distribution centers, and then brought even closer to customers for access from refrigerated cases. But in developing countries, that refrigeration aspect is often missing in most every step along the cold chain.
That concern formed the basis for much of the talk during a panel presentation at the most recent International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration (www.iiar.org) Conference in Nashville, Tennessee.
Titled “Global View of Industrial Refrigeration,” the five panelists looked at what was described as “current problems, prospects and legal hurdles.” Along the way, attention was drawn to initiatives of IIAR and its allied associations in dealing with cold chain developments in emerging markets.
Richard Tracey of the Global Cold Chain Alliance (www.gcca.org) drew attention to small charge ammonia refrigeration systems being developed that “can be used as mobile chillers at harvest sites,” an important aspect to preserve food close to the source.
But it goes beyond that, he said, because “transportation is the weakest link especially in developing countries.” He noted instances “of no refrigeration in trucks, just pass-through cooling.” In terms of warehousing, “I still see open boxes that we had in the 1940s and 1950s” or “small little plug and plays that are having issues maintaining temperature.”
Klass Visser of KAV Consulting (www.kav-consulting.com) encouraged the formation of a Global Natural Refrigeration Alliance to monitor and respond to ongoing developments which include such current issues as a potential HFC phase down; politically-fueled statements such as Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent comment that climate change was “a weapon of mass destruction”; and shifting positions in Australia over carbon tax.
The focus, he said, should be on a move to natural refrigerants like ammonia, HCs, and CO2. “That’s our job. That is what we need to do collectively.”
Guy Cloutier, chairman and CEO of CTC Holdings (www.ctc-group.com), encouraged continued attention on China which is a country, he said, “of paradoxes where despite big cities it remains a poor country that is far behind (in keeping up with advances in) the cold chain.” He said there is “much potential for ammonia and natural refrigerants.” He did note that “the cold chain logistics started in China in 2010 and have been growing rapidly. But it is just at the beginning.”
He said, “China was facing a food safety crisis. People just don’t trust the local food. People eat McDonalds and KFC in China not because they like it, but because it is safe food. China is in a rush to improve the infrastructure of its cold chain. When people question the safety of the infrastructure, it reflects badly on the ammonia refrigeration industry.”
P. Sudhir Kumar of the Association of Ammonia Refrigeration (www.ammoniaindia.org) talked about the situation in India. While issues related to safety and proper operation of equipment, the challenges include a lack of specialized factory inspectors and outdated standards. Another challenge is natural refrigerants like ammonia gaining a greater foothold in a country that relies mainly on synthetic refrigerants. “We natural gas (advocates) are ants and they (the f-gas users) are elephants.” It’s even noted that in one state in India there is a requirement to change out a system from ammonia to HCFC-22.
He said his organization, AAR, is working to “improve all aspects” of refrigeration in India with a special focus on the training needs.
The Latin American perspective was given by Andres Valles of Parker Hannifin Corp. (www.parker.com). He noted the large size of cities through that part of the world such as Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Bogota, Lima, and Santiago.
Throughout those cities and countries there is a sense, he said, of engagement in refrigeration developments. “They like to say, ‘I belong in the sandbox’” in terms of being global players. He noted the ability in that part of the world “to ship finished goods and not just raw goods. There is an upward trend among the middle class and (refrigeration) plants are getting larger. Demand for quality (products) and availability is rising.”
But, he said, “With industrial refrigeration, growth is outpacing trained/certified workers and schools with specific industrial refrigeration curriculums.” He did note that in larger economies there are industry-specific curriculum around food processing and refrigeration. He also noted manufacturing capability in Latin America to makes vessels such as evaporators, condensers, control panels and flow control devices. “But quality varies,” he said, as with a “state of the art (manufacturing) facility next to a shop with somebody making cheaper (inferior) parts.”
In calling for continued involvement of the IIAR in Latin America he drew attention to end users as in the supermarket sector in terms of desires and safety. “Mom and Pop (small grocers) want to grow larger — and they want to sleep well at night.”