Carbon dioxide (CO2) as a refrigerant is gaining increasing industry acceptance in commercial and industrial refrigeration systems in North America, according to a survey conducted by Danfoss. The survey also identified barriers to greater CO2 use in refrigeration.


The online survey was distributed via email to approximately 1,100 people who do business in commercial or industrial refrigeration applications.

According to the survey, the commercial refrigeration industry continues to see CO2 as a viable mainstream technology for refrigeration (82 percent of OEMs and 91 percent of consultants and end users), and about half of responding OEMs see CO2 refrigeration as being at least 16 percent of their business within the next five years. In a similar study, conducted in 2012, less than 20 percent of OEMs saw CO2 comprising at least 16 percent of their businesses.

The majority of commercial refrigeration consultants and end users are engaged in CO2 projects and cited pending legislation/regulations and corporate sustainability goals as the key drivers in the decision to use CO2. High initial system cost was identified as a primary barrier to deployment.

“The results of this survey validate the ongoing growth we are seeing in CO2 projects across North America,” said Peter Dee, sales and services director – food retail, Danfoss. “Globally, Danfoss has been involved in more than 10,000 CO2 refrigeration projects, and we are using this experience to continue investing in technologies, like our new CTM Multi-Ejectors that help to minimize the challenges and application barriers to CO2. We have also recently launched our CO2 Mobile Training Unit to address the critical need for training.”


The survey also identified similar acceptance in the industrial refrigeration market. Fifty-seven percent of responding OEMs and contractors and 43 percent of consultants and end users indicated they’ve already either been involved in a CO2 refrigeration project or have plans to be. However, OEMs and contractors do not see CO2 becoming a significant part of their businesses in the near future.

OEMs and contractors identified the removal of ammonia, in terms of improved safety and reduced ammonia charge, as key drivers in using CO2. Consultants and end users agreed, but also cited pending legislation/regulation as important factors. In contrast to the commercial refrigeration industry, industrial refrigeration respondents said the primary barrier to further CO2 use is the result of end user and contractor familiarity and training.


Marc-André Lesmerises, president, Carnot Refrigeration, said the Danfoss survey results are representative of what Carnot faces. The same barriers appear systematically within each market Carnot works in — from supermarkets and refrigerated warehouses to ice rink chillers or computer room air conditioning.

“[The survey] accurately depicts the type of feedback we get from contractors, consultants, and end users when they are first presented with CO2 as an option for their systems,” Lesmerises told The NEWS. However, he added that after one or two projects, these barriers typically are no longer an issue.

“The more CO2 projects are completed, the more contractors get familiar with the particularities of CO2 and they understand and enjoy its advantages despite the initial resistance,” Lesmerises said. “To help with this transition, Carnot Refrigeration gives as much information and as much training in-house as needed because we understand that lack of familiarity could be an important barrier to the growth of CO2 within the industry. This survey demonstrated as much.”

Lesmerises added that the survey’s results illustrate the difference in importance of initial costs between OEMs, contractors, consultants, and end users. He said the primary users of a system increasingly understand the total cost of a project instead of focusing on the initial cost.

“Initial cost is still a barrier to getting CO2 across the map for contractors as we have found they tend to focus less on life cycle costs,” he said.


CO2 technology is expanding exponentially in commercial refrigeration, and some of the most exciting technology developments over the past year address the hurdles mentioned in the Danfoss survey — especially related to the efficient use of CO2 in hotter climates, noted Keilly Witman, owner of KW Refrigerant Management Strategy and co-chairman of North American Sustainable Refrigeration Council’s (NASRC’s) board of directors.

NASRC has made significant progress in addressing some of the other issues mentioned in the survey, Witman said.

“For instance, we’ve published best-practice guidelines on CO2 for contractors and end-users, and we are cooperating with other organizations to establish specialized training on CO2 for technicians,” Witman told The NEWS. “As a nonprofit, we are well-positioned to collect data on the return on investment of CO2 refrigeration, and we are actively doing that so the industry has an objective source of information. As the NASRC develops more solutions, tools, and data for the industry on CO2 use, we’ll see an increase in end-user demand and a larger percentage of OEMs doing significant business in CO2.”


Ted Gartland, president, E. Gartland & Associates LLC, said, as a manufacturer’s representative in the refrigeration industry, he strives to promote equipment that is competitive in the marketplace, works well, and doesn’t cause problems. 

“So far, our experience with natural refrigerants has been uneventful,” he said. “CO2, in particular, is different in how it is applied and how it is engineered, but, in the end, it makes the product cold, and that is the goal.”

Gartland noted the most recent ASHRAE Standard 34 listing of refrigerants designates more than 80 refrigerants in the 400 (blended) series, which could complicate the selection process.

“CO2 is simple,” he said. “It’s made up of two of the most common elements on Earth. It was around before CFCs [chlorofluorocarbons], HCFCs
HFCs [hydrofluorocarbons], and HFOs [hydrofluoroolefins]. With all the global governmental and environmental uncertainty, CO2 will surely be around and is worth a look, especially in large industrial systems.” 

Publication date: 4/3/2017

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