German manufacturer GEA Heating & Refrigeration Technologies (GEA HRT)’s ammonia/NH3 (R717) heat pump business in Europe is growing as decarbonization targets take center stage, taking market share from less efficient f-gas units in industrial applications.
That is according to Kenneth Hoffmann, Product Manager Heat Pumps, Engineering & Execution Excellence for GEA Heating & Refrigeration Technologies, during an interview at last week’s Chillventa trade show in Nuremberg, Germany.
Hoffmann believes that the industry is ready for the decarbonization challenge but needs to step up its game with natural refrigerant products. “To reach our decarbonization target, we need to have best-in-class installation heating and cooling solutions,” he said. “If we don’t, we won’t reach our targets. To reach best-in-class, we need to go with a natural refrigerant because we know they are 5, 10, 20% better than synthetic [f-gas] refrigeration.”
Even f-gas heat pump manufacturers are preparing themselves to shift to naturals, said Hoffmann, as they already have smaller models in natural refrigerants ready for when legislation changes. “They will jump on it immediately. Of course, they have their current sales in f-gases, and they are happy with that, so they don’t have an urgency to change. But they are ready.”
According to Hoffmann, the GEA HRT Chillventa booth was very busy this year as a lot of contractors sought out more sustainable heat pumps to help their customers to decarbonize faster. “Decarbonization has been a general theme the past couple of days, particularly looking at heat pumps,” he said.
“To reach best-in-class, we need to go with a natural refrigerant because we know they are 5, 10, 20% better than synthetic refrigeration.”Kenneth Hoffmann, GEA
Turning up the heat
GEA’s heat pumps are currently able to deliver 95°C (203°F) heat, but customers are already asking for temperatures as high as 120 and 140°C (248 and 284°F), said Hoffmann. “That is the next challenge we have to step up to,” he said, adding that he thinks it will not be met with ammonia or CO2 but that they are investigating other refrigerant options.
At its Chillventa booth, Johnson Controls International (JCI) said it is also developing heat pumps that can deliver temperatures above 100°C (212°F).
Hoffmann noted some other changes in the refrigerants used in industrial applications, particularly speaking to the European market. “We are seeing CO2 moving into the industrial sphere,” he said. “We are also seeing that f-gases are losing ground on the industrial side. The traditional ammonia refrigeration business is growing. We are focusing a lot on the heating side, but we do see that the standard ammonia refrigeration side is also growing.”
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