Shecco’s fifth ATMOsphere Europe Conference, held in Brussels, Belgium Oct. 15-16, 2013, was the largest ATMOsphere event produced to date, as it was attended by more than 220 decision makers from all major European refrigeration stakeholder groups.

Presentations given over the course of 11 sessions showed an ever-strengthening increase in the European market for natural refrigerants, particularly for carbon dioxide (CO2) refrigeration, which has become a cornerstone of the businesses of many European system suppliers and manufacturers. 

The conference’s 54 presentations covered everything from CO2 reefer-containers, to ammonia plate freezers, and CO2 and hydrocarbon heat pumps for industrial and domestic hot water.

ATMOsphere Europe 2013 Chairman Marc Chasserot said, “This is the decade for natural refrigerants. We already have over 400 companies across Europe working with all natural refrigerants in the refrigeration and air conditioning sectors. 100 of those companies either attended or presented their solutions at the biggest ever ATMOsphere Europe conference. There is an undeniable momentum behind this trend and it is growing every day.”

Natural Refrigerant Industry Wants Stricter EU F-gas Regs
At the center of the discussions during the two-day conference was the EU F-Gas Regulation, for which EU policy-makers are currently negotiating revisions. Speakers such as Jo Leinen, Member of the European Parliament and shadow rapporteur on the EU F-Gas Regulation, argued that bans with set dates are needed to give the market a clear signal to shift to alternative, and low global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants. This position was supported by many of the industry representatives, who are eager to see political support for their innovative natural refrigerant-based solutions.

The Commercial Refrigeration Panel discussion, chaired by Chasserot, focused on both retailers using, and suppliers of, natural refrigeration solutions. Whilst the panel showed strong commitment to using natural refrigerants, and discussed the advantages of CO2 systems — such as increased energy efficiency and reduced operating costs — the use of natural refrigeration systems for smaller stores was presented as challenge, but one with a growing number of solutions.

Growing Market for CO2 in Commercial Refrigeration
According to shecco’s Head of Market Research, Nina Masson, the number of CO2 transcritical supermarkets in Europe has more than doubled compared to the end of 2011, reaching a total number of 2,881 stores by September 2013. Presentations by Edeka, Sonae, Delhaize, Ahold, Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’s leant support to these findings, and made it clear that CO2 is the preferred option for many European retailers.

For the sector to move forward, conference discussions showed that what is needed now is to find cost effective natural solutions for convenience stores and hot climates. Presentations by Enex, Carel, Frigo-Consulting and Green & Cool all indicated promising results for various technologies that could be used to push the “CO2 efficiency equator” further south towards the Mediterranean. For small-format stores, Scandinavian refrigeration system suppliers Advansor and Green & Cool confirmed the commercial availability of smaller capacity technologies.

Use of Hydrocarbon Refrigerants in Stand-alone Units is Growing
Commercial refrigeration-focused presentations pointed towards a growing market for hydrocarbons as refrigerants in stand-alone units. For example, half of Red Bull’s total cooler fleet — around 457,000 coolers — use hydrocarbons as the refrigerant. Heineken’s Green Fridge policy has resulted in a significant company investment in hydrocarbon fridges, and has also led to the development of the world’s first green draught system that uses R290 as the refrigerant. From the supplier side, AHT Cooling Systems reported that they have over 480,000 propane cabinets installed in European supermarkets.

Ammonia Will Lead for Seven More Years
In the industrial refrigeration sector, despite slow overall growth rates in the food industry and industrial refrigeration sector, the move towards a still broader adoption of natural refrigerants is expected to continue. Results from shecco’s latest market survey of key industrial stakeholders indicates that ammonia will maintain its market-leading position in the next seven years, but that CO2/NH3 solutions, and to a lesser extent hydrocarbons (HCs), will become increasingly competitive.

Natural Refrigerant Heat Pump Solutions
The case study session dedicated to heat pumps introduced the audience to various CO2 and hydrocarbon heat pump solutions from SANDEN Europe, boostHeat, ait-deutschland, KNVvK & NVKL, and Fraunhofer. Already commercially available in Europe is the first combi-type CO2 heat pump for residential space heating and domestic hot water production, whilst considerable research is being undertaken into R290 heat pumps. 

About shecco
For more than a decade market development expert shecco has been active in helping bring climate friendly technologies faster to market. shecco supports over 100+ partners worldwide in two areas: the HVAC&R sector, where the focus is on sustainable refrigeration, heating & cooling technologies using natural refrigerants; and the transport sectors where an emphasis is put on electric vehicles (cars, heavy duty vehicle, scooters, bikes). shecco offers a variety of services, ranging from world-leading online industry platforms, to market research & consultancy services, events management, funding & grants support, and public affairs.