Background article

Natural refrigerants increasingly significant worldwide

eurammon lecture event at the Chillventa

Frankfurt (Main), 12/03/2014. In Europe, the F-Gas Regulation is driving the advance of natural refrigerants "by law". But what are the framework conditions like in other countries? The lecture event entitled "Natural Refrigerants Throughout the World – Country Situation, Applications and Experiences" held by eurammon on 15/10/2014 at the Chillventa illuminated the current situation in various international markets. Experts from the individual countries showed how the use of natural refrigerants is developing in Kazakhstan, the Middle East, Turkey and the USA.

Kazakhstan: initial movement in the political sector

Kazakhstan still has a long way to go to achieve environmentally friendly standards in refrigeration. Even so, its endorsement of the Kyoto Protocol in 2009 constituted a first important milestone for the Central Asian state when it comes to sustainable technologies. The country now has to implement a national plan to regulate the emissions of climate-damaging greenhouse gases. But a lot still has to be done for natural refrigerants, confirms Yuri Dubodelov from SAKADA Engineering, Almaty. The whole region is suffering from an extreme lack of skilled workers, with scarcely any engineering and development expertise, and there is very little demand for high-performance refrigeration systems that also face strict safety requirements.

The Middle East: cost awareness beats environmental awareness

The situation in the Middle East is much better. Hans Raaymakers, General Manager at ADEAREST, underlines in particular the role played by ammonia in the United Arab Emirates. There has been widespread use of the natural refrigerant throughout the whole region since the 1990s, thanks to the influence of western companies. Many systems are currently being modernized or replaced by new ones, so we expect a continued increase in the spread of ammonia; however, until legislation is in place to urge the use of ammonia, then the cheaper initial costs of adopting conventional refrigeration systems will be seen as an advantage.

Turkey: progressive phase-out

For decades now, applications with natural refrigerants have been accepted as part of the industrial standard in Turkey. Around 90% of the systems use ammonia; only 10% of the systems are operated with fluorinated refrigerants and this is only for cooling areas smaller than 2,000 m² in size. By contrast, there is still relatively little use of CO2 as a refrigerant. Here increasing impetus is coming from multinational companies that are refurbishing systems with high global warming potential (GWP) and high ozone depletion potential (ODP). A statutory, highly progressive F-gas phase-out based on the EU regulations will continue to boost the significance of natural refrigerants in the next few years, explains Hüseyin M. Yüksel from the Turkish Air Conditioning & Refrigeration Manufacturers´ Association (ISKID) with regard to the current situation.

USA: throwing the economic switch

Barack Obama has created the legal framework for phasing out F-gases with high ODP and GWP, reports Dave Rule, President of the International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration (IIAR) from the USA. In the medium term, the industry expects to see a corresponding shortage which will make environmentally harmful refrigerants more expensive, and is therefore currently searching for efficient alternatives that are also viable in terms of costs. Altogether the USA reveals a comprehensive, cross-application trend toward natural refrigerants, starting from large refrigerated warehouses via smaller commercial applications through to air-conditioning systems. To forge ahead with this transformation with the greatest possible efficiency, at the moment new partnerships are emerging where representatives from the industrial and political sectors are collaborating closely with end users.

Conclusion: large and small steps in the right direction

Natural refrigerants are currently becoming increasingly significant on a worldwide scale. Various legal, economic, ecological, infrastructural and political factors influence the spread of environmentally friendly refrigerants such as ammonia or CO2. The EU and major industrial countries such as the USA or Turkey are driving these developments and acting as a source of inspiration, setting standards that are increasingly being taken as guidelines by countries in other regions.