As 2015 begins, the end of new and imported HCFCs is in sight and phasedown and limits on certain HFCs seem more and more likely.

So to continue to meet refrigeration needs, f-gas proponents turn to low global warming potential (GWP) HFCs and HFOs, while advocates of so-called natural solutions — such as HCs, CO2, and ammonia — continue to build their case.

While the regulatory landscape in North America continues to embrace the naturals, it was only natural that an Atmosphere America International Workshop was held for a third year. In 2014 it took place in San Francisco. Again, the annual event was postured as “a business case for natural refrigerants” arguing that regardless of how governmental regulations play out, there is a favorable cost aspect regarding natural refrigerants that decision makers should consider when purchasing new HVACR equipment.

“Atmosphere America 2014 was the biggest and best ever ATMO, with 250 experts, 60 presentations across 13 different sessions to talk business and natural refrigerants,” said Marc Chasserot, chairman of the event and managing director for the European marketing firm Shecco. “Simply put (naturals) are coming. And more U.S.-based companies see the competitive advantage of getting there first. The next two to three years will be an exciting time to watch these developments.”

Here is a summary of some of those developments.

California Considerations

While phasedowns regarding HFCs is currently bottled up on the global stage with disagreements among a number of nations and President Obama’s efforts to unilaterally impose limits bogged down in domestic politics, natural advocates are eyeing California. That is simply because that state often takes more aggressive actions within its borders.

At Atmosphere America, Keilly Witman, Shecco VP for business development, said, “The state of California, a leader when it comes to the implementation of environmental legislation in North America, has committed to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases by 80 percent by 2050.”

Glenn Gallagher, air pollution specialist at the California Air Resources Board (CARB), said actions to reduce short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) such as HFCs, by at least 80 percent, will be necessary in order to help accomplish the goal. To this end, CARB is currently considering a number of measures outlined in the recently published Scoping Plan that would limit the use of high-GWP refrigerants. Proposed measures include an HFC phase-down, low-GWP requirements, a high-GWP fee, and ODS destruction offset programs.


The dynamics of using CO2 as a refrigerant were reflected by Nina Masson, Shecco’s deputy managing director. She contended that European suppliers of CO2 equipment are pushing into North America while North American companies are expanding their operations into Europe. She said she expected Japanese companies to enter both markets in the near future.

Masood Ali of Heatcraft Worldwide Refrigeration said there is room for growth. He said currently only about 4 percent of stores in Europe use CO2 and less than 1 percent do so in North America. “A huge potential is still untapped,” he said. One development noted at the event was that the Target Corp. is changing the prototype of its stores from HFC-404A to a hybrid HFC-134a/CO2 system.

At the same time, use of CO2 in transcritical systems were reported from Whole Foods, Hannaford supermarkets, and in Walgreen drug stores, among applications noted.

Peter Dee, director of sales and service, Danfoss, talked about the benefits of CO2 in supermarket systems, which include low climate impact, lower life cycle cost, and energy savings. He noted the company was involved in one of the first HFC-free supermarket installations in the U.S., at a Whole Foods store in Brooklyn, New York, which uses a transcritical CO2 refrigeration system. The 56,000 -square-foot storealso has combined heat and power, and air handling units with hot and chilled water.


Use of HC refrigerants was reported to now being applied in more than 500,000 pieces of refrigerated equipment used by McDonald’s, Red Bull, and Coca-Cola Co. McDonald’s Jeffrey Hogue said R-290 (propane) and R-600 (isobutene) are being used to provide cooling. Red Bull’s Paige Dunn said R-600a is being used in company coolers. Coca-Cola announced it continues to aim for a total phaseout of HFCs in new cold drink equipment and will move to CO2.


The ammonia sector’s desire to bring its refrigerant to more sites via lower charges was also covered at the Atmosphere America event.

Derek Hamilton of Azane noted the HCFC-22 phaseout in the U.S. and said that low charge ammonia systems represent an ideal alternative. He cited a low charge air-cooled packaged ammonia chiller installed at a dairy in Puerto Rico. It has 190 tons of refrigeration (TR) with a central cooling system, air-handling units, and twin screw compressors.

Sam Gladis, business director for heat pumps, Emerson Climate Technologies, presented a case study of an ammonia based heat pump installation in a cheese processing facility. The installed ammonia refrigeration system has a compressor load of 14,176 tons and a condensing capacity of 13,319 tons.

An issue arose where in the summer the processing plant had a shortfall in condensing capacity, which resulted in an increase in head pressure from 145 psig to 170 psig. Gladis said the Emerson ammonia heat pump installation is able to offset some of this.

He said the new configuration enabled the heat pump to act in parallel as a condenser and to replicate the heating capacity of one of the four steam boilers.


To give contractors an idea of how the refrigerant and refrigeration landscape can change, the conference looked at water in cooling applications especially as related to evaporative cooling.  In one example a project by Genentech at a college is looking at absorption chillers using water as a refrigerant as a replacement for large central chillers.

And several speakers from utilities discussed the viability of natural refrigerants in equipment in regards to energy efficiency as related to the electric grid.

Paul Delaney of Southern California Edison (SCE) said that in the commercial sector an Albertson supermarket in Carpinteria is a zero-net energy supermarket. It uses natural ventilation and a NH3/CO2 refrigeration system. The store’s energy consumption has been reduced by 30 percent, he said. He also noted SCE is working with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) to identify new technologies in refrigeration, focusing on natural refrigerants.