Australia-based Scantec Refrigeration Technologies, a Gold sponsor of the upcoming ATMOsphere Asia 2018 conference, told this website of the evolving global market for NatRefs.
Stefan Jensen, Managing Director, Scantec Refrigeration Technologies
Australia-based Scantec Refrigeration Technologies (Scantec) has been designing and installing industrial refrigeration systems for more than two decades. In 22 years, the company has completed more than 1,000 projects, according to Scantec Managing Director Stefan Jensen. Ammonia21.com sits down with him to hear more.
Over the years, the company has focused more and more of its work on natural refrigerant-based systems, particularly ammonia. The company currently does about 15-25 major natural refrigerant projects per year, mainly for customers in the food manufacturing, processing and logistics industries.
With Southeast Asia's fast-growing industrial sector, the need for energy efficient heating and cooling technology is growing quickly.
Scantec, which recently completed its first low-charge ammonia installation in China and its largest low-charge system to date in Australia, sees significant potential for these systems to replace inefficient, environmentally harmful Freon-based systems throughout the Asia Pacific.
Jensen spoke to this website about the evolving market for natural refrigerant systems worldwide and the growing opportunities for low-charge ammonia systems in industrial refrigeration applications.
Ammonia21: Traditionally, what has been the main refrigerant used in industrial refrigeration applications such as cold storage, distribution centres, food processing/manufacturing, etc.? How is this changing?
Jensen: In Australia, the preferred refrigerant for those applications has been ammonia for larger systems and HFCs for smaller systems. We are now seeing ammonia used in smaller to medium-sized systems that were previously reserved for HFCs.
In some markets there appears to be a trend towards transcritical CO2 caused by fear of ammonia (NH3). This, of course, jeopardises energy efficiency in warm to hot climates and hence violates the Paris Treaty.
“Eventually natural refrigerants will dominate in all mainstream RACHP applications – HFO/HFCs will be dedicated to niche applications."
– Stefan Jensen, Scantec
Ammonia21: In which applications do you see the biggest opportunities for natural refrigerant-based technology, and why?
Jensen: There are opportunities for natural refrigerants in all refrigeration and air conditioning applications. It is pointless trying to rank the opportunities. Eventually natural refrigerants will dominate in all mainstream RACHP applications – HFOs/HFCs will be dedicated to niche applications. This development is only a matter of time.
In some applications natural refrigerants already dominate. In some other applications, it will take 10-15 years before that status is reached. Some will take even longer. The so-called fourth-generation synthetic refrigerants are unlikely to be any more than an interim solution with a market presence in new systems not exceeding 15-20 years. The manufacturers of these substances are aware of this as evidenced by the style of their marketing campaigns. Evidence of the environmental, energy performance and safety impacts of HFOs and other derivatives thereof will be steadily mounting and ultimately jeopardise the market share of these working fluids.
Ammonia21: What's the level of awareness and what feedback have you received from end users about natural refrigerant technology?
Jensen: End users don’t know that they don’t know. One also has to question why end users need to know what goes around in the pipes? End users make buying decisions for RACHP systems based on the ability of the proposed system to satisfy their needs, costs of operation, capital costs, reliability, serviceability, frequency of maintenance, etc.
It is up to the provider of the refrigeration plant solution to ensure the end user can make an informed decision. This is often where the problem is. A solution provider who is unable to master certain types of solutions naturally attempts to offer solutions within the services portfolio that he/she does master. This is a problem all the way through the supply chain and this significantly slows down the change that must happen.
“The so-called fourth-generation synthetic refrigerants are unlikely to be any more than an interim solution with a market presence in new systems not exceeding 15-20 years."
– Stefan Jensen, Scantec
Ammonia21: What current projects are you focused on with natural refrigerants?
Jensen: To continue the marketing of central type, low-charge NH3 plants both for replacement of existing HFC installations and also for new facilities. Scantec has a track record of fourteen operating low-charge NH3 systems with an additional five under construction. It is not believed anyone else can match this.
Presently, a new low-charge NH3 plant is being constructed for a facility in the tropics. The new NH3 plant replaces an existing HFC system that is more than ten years old.
Following commissioning of the new NH3 plant, it will be possible to carry out a real energy performance comparison based on long-term electricity consumption records and perform a real evaluation of the economics associated with such replacements. These types of comparison are more reliable and more realistic than the typical measurement and verification exercises carried out using mathematical models of the systems in question.
Ammonia21: What are the biggest opportunities you see in the Southeast Asian market over the next few years for natural refrigerants?
Jensen: Clearly as HFCs dry up, end users across the board must consider what new, future-proof refrigerants they can use without jeopardising operational costs (energy consumption).
This is a huge opportunity for competent suppliers of natural refrigerant-based solutions, but it will also be a significant challenge for end users to differentiate between the lifecycle costs of the various offers presented to them. There is a real risk that the current 'CO2 phoria' will become just another race to the bottom where the lowest capital cost wins the business and end users over time are left with a feeling similar to that of being in a bad marriage – easy to get into, but very expensive to get out of.
Scantec Refrigeration Technologies (Scantec) is a Gold sponsor of the upcoming 5th Annual ATMOsphere Asia 2018 conference. The conference will take place on 4 September, the day before Mostra Convegno Expocomfort (MCE) Asia (5-7 September) in Central Singapore.