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CO2: THE NATURAL REFRIGERANT OF CHOICE Safe, environmentally friendly, economical and reliable, CO2 has all the characteristics that make it a prime candidate for largeformat food retailers seeking an alternative to synthetic gases By André Patenaude


he large-format food retail market has always been at the leading edge of refrigeration technology. After all, these grocery and supermarket chains must continually deliver the fresh foods that feed much of the global population. Market drivers and regulations in recent years have added sustainable refrigeration to the list of priorities for large-format retailers.

comfort level for consumer-facing refrigeration applications. As energy efficiencies and the reliability of CO2 refrigeration systems rise, system costs are falling to levels typically found in traditional HFC systems. For these reasons, CO2 has become the natural refrigerant of choice for large-format food retailers.

Among the natural refrigerant alternatives able to meet the need for advanced, environmentally friendly centralized systems, CO2 (R744) leads the pack.


Offering zero ozone depletion potential (ODP) and a global warming potential (GWP) of one, CO 2 is often considered the environmental standard by which all other refrigerants are measured. In a regulatory era when chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are being phased out due to their negative environmental impacts, CO2’s benign environmental profile has led to a broad global uptake in large-format refrigeration applications. In addition, CO 2 has neither the flammability nor toxicity challenges posed by other natural refrigerant alternatives, providing an additional

CO2 refrigeration systems were originally introduced in Europe nearly two decades ago and have since moved into other regions around the globe. Today, CO2 adoption has migrated from Europe to Japan and North America. (See map, page 17.)

For those U.S. retailers who have begun the transition to CO2 refrigeration, the benefits are obvious. New Seasons Market, for example, is a Northwestern grocer based in Portland, Ore., whose first CO2 system delivered on its green promise. When the retailer opened a new store in a location previously owned by another grocer, it installed a CO2 transcritical booster system to replace the existing HFC system. The transition earned the store a GreenChill Platinum Certification award for green refrigeration and delivered the following improvements: »» Up to 30% lower total equivalent warming impacts (TEWI) »» 95% fewer refrigerant emissions »» Smaller refrigeration footprint New Seasons has plans for CO 2 installations in other stores.

The number of CO2 stores in the E.U., Norway and Switzerland has tripled in the last three years to 9,000, representing 8% of the overall food retail market share in these regions.


In North America, with more than 410 installations, retailers are still in an experimental “trial” phase to see how CO2 — and other natural refrigerants for that matter — can be used in their facilities, and across varying climatic zones.

As older systems age and require upgrading or replacement, many large-format food retailers are making the transition from higher-GWP HFC refrigeration architectures subject to regulations to lower-GWP systems. Accelerate America 

  June-July 2017

Accelerate America #26 June/July 2017  

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