Johnson Controls sees growing opportunities for traditional and low-charge NH3 systems in Southeast Asia's industrial sector thanks to their superior energy efficiency, the company told this website.
Highlighting the growing opportunities for natural refrigerants in Southeast Asia (SEA), Ai Lin Yar, who heads industrial refrigeration for Johnson Controls in the region, spoke to this website about the future direction of the region's fast-growing food processing and cold chain logistics sectors.
Ammonia21: Which types of application does Johnson Controls Industrial Refrigeration Singapore mainly serve?
Yar: We are in the cold storage, poultry, ice cream, beverage and dairy business in SEA, along with palm oil processing refrigeration plants in Malaysia and Indonesia.
Ammonia21: Traditionally, what has been the main refrigerant used in industrial refrigeration applications in Southeast Asia? How is this changing?
Yar: Primarily, SEA customers prefer to use either Freon or NH3 as their primary refrigerants when it comes to commercial and industrial applications, subject to their budget demands, energy efficiency, and operator knowledge of their existing refrigeration plant.
In recent years, when the size of the refrigeration plant crosses a certain threshold, customers would consider investing in natural refrigerants. But many commercial customers would still prefer Freon-based solutions. This is primarily due to Freon's initial economic cost, ease of worker operation and the removal of NH3 exposure risk or high-pressure CO2 to maintain.
Ammonia21: In which applications do you see the biggest opportunities for natural refrigerant-based technology and why?
Yar: We see the biggest opportunities for natural refrigerants with big cold storage end users, who require low-temperature storage, ice cream freezing, and the palm-oil refrigeration business.
This is primarily due to the energy efficiency of using natural refrigerants versus Freon, especially in the low-temperature range of application. NH3 is still by far the most manageable refrigerant in terms of its relatively low pressure and it being the single refrigerant with good hot gas defrost properties. Low-charge NH3 systems will be welcome in the next generation of design.
“I think countries in SEA will continue to see growth in general for most of the food processing and cold chain logistics sectors." - Ai Lin Yar, Johnson Controls Industrial Refrigeration Singapore
Ammonia21: What are the biggest challenges you are currently facing?
Yar: Our biggest challenges are the lack of local sales coverage, lack of local service coverage and lack of skilled service engineers. Retention of good service technicians is also a challenge. Additionally, customers buying non-original parts from third parties which we have no control of, are a challenge as well.
Ammonia21: What is the level of awareness and what feedback have you received from end users about natural refrigerant technology?
Yar: Generally most SEA customers in the industrial cold chain sector are aware of the use of NH3 as the natural refrigerant to be more efficient, and Freon as the alternative cheaper option. So there is always a comparative study between these two choices subject to customer evaluation of whether they are looking at short term or long term benefits, and whether the use of natural refrigerants will fit their company branding as environmentally friendly.
Ammonia21: What are the biggest opportunities you see in the Southeast Asian market over the next few years for natural refrigerants?
Yar: I think countries in SEA will continue to see growth in general for most of the food processing and cold chain logistics sectors. We hope that with the encouragement of local governments to push towards the use of natural refrigerants in order to contribute to reducing carbon footprint, energy efficiency and high-GWP gases, there will be a stronger push towards the use of natural refrigerants.
The use of ammonia systems for industrial applications in Southeast Asia will be among the main topics of discussion at the 5th Annual ATMOsphere Asia 2018, which will take place on 4 September, the day before Mostra Convegno Expocomfort (MCE) Asia (5-7 September) in Central Singapore.