BRUSSELS, Belgium - HFCs remain on solid footing for the foreseeable future in North America, but they appear to be on very shaky ground in Europe.

A recent alternative refrigerant conference in Brussels drew 300 people to hear representative from such high-profile companies as Coca-Cola, McDonalds, and Unilever pledge that they will do whatever they can to end the use of HFCs in their refrigeration equipment used in many locations in Europe.

In a statement issued at the time of the conference, environmental group Greenpeace reported, "Unilever [said it] will purchase only HFC-free ice cream cabinets. Already some 14,000 units have been replaced. Coca-Cola [said it] will convert millions of vending machines to non-HFC refrigerants. McDonalds [said it] will make changes to some 300 restaurants, converting its 11 types of refrigeration units - including air conditioners, walk-in freezers, and salad and drink coolers - to alternative refrigerants."

Greenpeace said alternative refrigeration technologies involve the use of natural hydrocarbons, CO2, and the Stirling engine, which its developers said can run on natural gas, propane, gasoline, diesel, bio-fuels, or heat from the sun.

Representatives of York International Corp. were invited to address the conference because of its "strategic partnership" with McDonalds, the manufacturer said. York representatives outlined what the company described as "innovative technologies that could help the food and beverage industry move toward HFC-free cooling."

Alexander Cohr Pachai, York senior engineer, told the assembly, "Our global reach and broad-based experience in both air conditioning and refrigeration applications allows us to design alternatives for HFC-free environments."

He told the gathering that York's HFC-free applications can include air conditioning for commercial offices, hospitals, and museums; supermarket, convenience store, and marine refrigeration; and in large district heating-cooling systems.

York "will continue to work toward solutions that are focused in future standardization, are transferable from one global region to another, and commercially viable," he said. "Today York employs the use of all environmentally acceptable refrigerants, including a wide array of natural refrigerants, namely CO2, ammonia, hydro-carbons, and water."

Regarding McDonalds, York officials said the company would focus on designing air conditioning systems, commercial freezers, and cold food storage systems.

One-Sided Impact

In response to questions posed byThe Newsfollowing the conference, Charles Thompson, vice president for National Accounts at the York Unitary Products Group in Norman, Okla., said the announcements and developments at the Brussels conference are not expected to have an impact on this side of the Atlantic.

"This is not a U.S. issue," he said. "We are not aware of any timetable or planning to move out of HFCs in North America."

He also said the McDonald's developments pertain to Europe only at this time. The food franchise is "exploring several alternatives and have asked York to participate in their discussions," Thompson said.

Publication date: 07/26/2004