Golden gateway to wider CO2 uptake: OEM, end-use, and contractor collaboration

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For the first time, ATMOsphere America included a session dedicated to contractors and suppliers who shared their unique views on how to accelerate the market for natural working fluids in commercial refrigeration. The key: knowledge sharing and close collaboration with contractors from the project outset.

Leading natural refrigerant experts from across Canada, the US and Europe took to the stage during the second Food Retail Panel at ATMOsphere America 2014 on 18 June to highlight the importance of partnership and training in the development of successful natural refrigerant projects.

Training imperative in creating a strong business case for naturals

Richard Heath, Sr. Director of Energy Optimization at Source Refrigeration, emphasised the importance of operations and maintenance training in making the business case for natural refrigeration. He stated that ignorance of operations and maintenance is a given when dealing with new technology, and operating and servicing new technologies requires new contractor and technician skills. While there is no one manual outlining all the maintenance needs of a CO2 system – each one often being very different to the next, the industry can nevertheless learn from past mistakes and successes. This will be key to creating a strong business case for natural refrigerants amongst the original equipment manufacturers, the refrigeration engineers of record (EoRs), as well as the refrigeration contractors.

In addition to learning from experience and past CO2 projects, the processes involved in these projects need to be clearly defined, meaning:

  • Understanding of design, installation and operation requirements
  • Having the proper tools
  • Developing required skills
  • Developing best practices

  • Collaboration is key to success of natural refrigerant systems

    Speaking from the perspective of a system supplier, Scott Martin Director, Sustainable Technologies for the Refrigeration Systems Division at Hillphoenix, echoed many of these points. For Martin, training is key to the success any natural refrigerant system. It is the contractor who will determine the success of any refrigeration installation. “You can have everything perfect, but if your contractor is not on board with the technology and a does not understand it, it is a recipe for disaster,” said Scott Martin.

    Martin also emphasised that the most successful projects have been those in which every entity with a vested interest in the installation is in the same room and on the same page before the construction begins.

    Mark Tomooka, Director, Applied Technology Development at Mayekawa, another system supplier, said the same: “the best projects are those where everyone is collaborating and aligned with the same goal.” For Tomooka, it is especially important to involve the manufacturer early in the planning process to ensure the system is optimised and designed specifically for its desired purpose. He noted that in order for this to occur, the following should be clearly defined:

  • Equipment specification and operation requirements
  • System integration points
  • Sequence of operations
  • Maintenance schedules

  • Tomooka highlighted the need to find the most suitable method to manage costs and risks as well as the importance of a post project evaluation. He offered an example from Mayekawa Japan, where predictive maintenance schedules for NewTon installations, using remote diagnosis, are being used to ensure all systems are operating efficiently. The practice of predictive rather than reactive maintenance reduces maintenance costs.

    Preparedness and planning reduces costs

    In his presentation, Neelands Controls Project Manager Chris Huffman highlighted training and preparedness as key messages. He noted several differences between HFC and CO2 systems to be taken into consideration with planning a new installation. One key difference is that CO2 systems are fully electronic, where as HFC systems are electro-mechanical which means contractors are transitioning from mechanical engineers to technicians.

    As well as appropriate contractor training, it is vital that the end-user maintain a close relationship with their contractor throughout the entire process of installation. Also important, is for end users is to take into account in their project planning the availability of back up components.

    Jim Armer, Assistant Director of Energy Services of CTA, further emphasised the role of preparedness in installing and maintaining new systems, mentioning that “surprises can end up costing a lot of money, so the idea is to limit the unknowns and surprises.” This requires stakeholder engagement, the establishment of benchmarks and reflection on previous projects. The practice of involving stakeholders and collaborators ensures that mistakes are not repeated and the new system functions in a cost-effective way.

    Armer said contractors should act as conduits of information, and that no party should have more or less information than another during the design process. Through good planning, communication, training and education it will then be possible to demonstrate repeatability, which in turn drives down costs. Stakeholders also need to look at opportunities to learn and share.