Brad Morris of Giant Eagle

Danfoss Symposium Features Updates on Refrigerants and Energy Management

Oct. 13, 2017
Presenters and panelists convened again to share news, trends and ideas that are sculpting new refrigeration and energy landscapes.

The 30th Annual Danfoss Symposium— "Refrigerants2Sustainability" — convened on September 27 in Orlando, Fla., to explore topics relevant to the present and not-to-distant future of supermarket refrigeration and energy management.

Symposium participants — each one a respective leader in a refrigeration or energy specialty — gathered at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek, the same location as the FMI Energy & Store Development Conference, which had concluded the day before. That was appropriate, not only for the convenience of participants, but because refrigeration is the common thread that runs through all topics that were discussed by eight presenters and 35 select participants.

"The industry continues to look over the horizon of how we reach low GWP and energy efficiency in our systems. These changes will impact supermarkets and marketers of refrigeration equipment: how they’re designed, installed and maintained," said co-moderator Lisa Tryson, director of communications for Danfoss. "We will look at some technology solutions, including CO2, and other technologies that can help to improve efficiency while also utilizing low Global Warming Potential technologies," Tryson said. "Finally we will look beyond regulations, at some utility incentive options, storage options and a systems approach to energy efficiency and power that can drive more sustainable options for the industry. The heart of this program is a dialogue, with the speakers, and among ourselves."

Robert Cavey of Praxis served as lead moderator for the discussion, which each year offers important insights into the state of energy efficiency and refrigerant developments in the US and globally.

This year's Symposium presenters were:

  • Mark Menzer, director, public affairs, Danfoss
  • Glenn Gallagher, staff lead for the California Air Resources Board (CARB)
  • Xudong Wang, Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute
  • Peter Dee, sales and services director, food retail, Danfoss.
  • KC Kolstad, lead refrigeration engineer for Target
  • Brad Morris, senior manager, engineering and energy, Giant Eagle
  • Aaron Daly, Whole Foods
  • Dr. Marcel Christians, Ice Energy.

The day began with Mark Menzer providing a look at the impact of the recent DC District Court decision that said the EPA did not have statutory authority to mandate the phasedown of non-ODP substances, including hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants. Note: Chemours and Honeywell have filed an appeal for that decision. Click here.

"So where does that leave us? I submit that it will cause confusion in the marketplace, as people ask questions: 'Are HFCs in or out? What about our investments made in moving to low GWP refrigerants, and its impact on new listings, what is EPA's authority now to list low-GWP refrigerants, and the impact on the Clean Air Act Sec. 608, related to refrigerant management?'"

In response to the ruling, Menzer said, the EPA could pursue a "retroactive disapproval," which would allow EPA to change its mind on HFC substitutes, but would be very difficult to enact. Or, he added, the Toxic Substances Control Act, could be used to ban certain refrigerants. It would allow for a drawdown of the substances without a ban, and would keep the point of regulation at the chemical manufacturer and not at the equipment manufacturer.

If Congress ratifies the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, Congress would have to give EPA the authority to implement it in a SNAP-like program, a refrigeration allocation scheme, or some other method. However, Menzer said, that ratification is not likely to occur anytime soon.

"Danfoss supports a planned and orderly phasedown of high-GWP HFC refrigerants," Menzer concluded. "During this time of uncertainty, Danfoss, as a global leader, is continuing its work to develop and qualify refrigeration and air-conditioning components that will be used in efficient, environmentally-friendly equipment for our global markets," Menzer said.

Glenn Gallagher of CARB —speaking to the group by phone due to travel delays — described California's response to the ruling against EPA as pretty much business as usual. He said California legislators continue to take action to reduce HFC emissions, which he said are rising, even as the use of ozone-depleting substances is reduced. California Senate Bill 1383, which became law in 2016, requires a 40 percent reduction in HFC emissions below 2013 levels, by 2030. However, he added that preliminary analysis indicates significant reductions, but they will not reach the 40 percent HFC reductions through the phasedown alone, so other measures will be enacted, including prohibitions on high-GWP refrigerants in new stationary refrigeration equipment and stationary air conditioning equipment.

Peter Dee, sales and services director, Danfoss food retail, addressed the panel on the growing diversity of technology, and the many technological improvements that are involved in moving produce "from farm to fork." He said the Internet of Things phenomenon is also a part of this picture, as software programs exist to track food products' journey from point A to point B and all points in between.

"There are more and more technologies coming into the store, and Danfoss is engineering smart store technology. Consequently, we need to train our technicians around these technologies," Dee said, "and we need to implement these technologies and maintain them after they’ve been installed. By training our technicians on these new technologies, they will be optimized for energy efficiency. Not just one application but across the entire store: LED lighting, rooftop units, refrigeration and demand response.That’s where manufacturers need to work together, to help customers increase energy efficiency."

Xudong Wang of AHRI provided an update on the AHRTI Flammable Refrigerant Research Program, which is supported with $5.6 million by AHRI, ASHRAE, the California Air Resource Board and U.S. Department of Energy. The AHRTI's objective is to produce publicly available technical results to support code and standard activities related to the use of flammable refrigerants. Seven projects will be undertaken to assess A2L and A3 refrigerants in HVAC equipment, walk-in coolers and reach-in coolers, and leak and ignition testing. (See download below.)

Wang said the plan is to complete testing and gain adoption of flammable refrigerants by model building codes by 2021, and state and local codes by 2022.

A discussion ensued as to why the timeline for adoption of flammable refrigerants (A2L and A3) must extend to 2022.

Panelist Keilly Witman, president of KW Refrigerant Management Strategy and former head of the EPA’s GreenChill Partnership for Advanced Refrigeration, said that the supermarket industry cannot wait until 2022 for standards for the use of flammable refrigerants.

"There are companies that are piloting equipment that use large amounts of these refrigerants, and without standards on how to move forward with these technologies, you’ve got a situation that is like the wild west," Witman said.

Witman continued: “Organizations like ASHRAE and UL have to realize that these long timelines were fine a decade ago when very little changed in this industry. But we now have a market where manufacturers are developing new technologies on a yearly basis. And it’s these standards organizations that are holding up progress for the environment, progress for supermarkets, and progress for our equipment manufacturers."

Charlie Hon of True Manufacturing, said manufacturers and builders are still operating under federal, state and local codes. "Building codes are localized, and not UL-driven. Unless [codes] they're changed, we can't do anything," Hon said. "UL recently allowed for 150 grams of propane to be used in residential refrigerators, under 60335-2. But that only triggers the next step. EPA SNAP now has to do its duty in allowing those larger charges, then Standard 15 and 34, and then local codes. No matter how you do it, it’s sequential."

Brad Morris, senior manager of engineering and energy for Giant Eagle, provided a look at the challenges of food retailers, from regulatory compliance with efficiency and food safety, competition, retail trends, and incorporating new technologies, such as floating head pressure, floating suction pressure, anti-sweat systems, adaptive defrost, lighting and evaporator fans.

He also reported on Giant Eagle's promising research into using individual case controls rather than central control systems. He said the benefits to individual controls include tighter temperature control; visibility at case level operations; improved food safety and quality energy savings; contractor remote troubleshooting; and enterprise management.

KC  Kolstad, lead refrigeration engineer for Target, provided an overview of the Target organization's refrigerant research and goals for refrigerant changeovers. He said Target has been evaluating alternative refrigerants for several years and has determined that R290 (propane) is the preferred self-contained refrigeration solution for the following reasons:

  • Lowest energy consumption of all HFC and natural refrigerants
  • Carbon equivalent GWP of 3 (as opposed to 1300 -3900 for traditional HFCs)
  • Manufacturing supply chain readiness
  • Contractor service capability and readiness
  • Field reliability and serviceability.

 Kolstad cited a Target beverage cooler test that shows a 53 percent energy savings by using R290, compared to a 25 percent energy savings with carbon dioxide.