According to a study1 presented at this year’s IIR Conference in Vicenza/Italy, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in supermarket refrigeration equipment are a competitive technology from an economic and also an environmental perspective. Their superior energy efficiency saves electricity, thereby reducing CO2 emissions. This advantage can more than compensate the climate impact of refrigerant leakage. Due to their cost effectiveness, further optimisation of energy performance and minimisation of leakages can be accomplished. Compared to HFC technology, not-in-kind alternatives using ammonia or carbon dioxide as refrigerants turned out to be less favourable than expected: combinations of HFC134a/HFC404A and HFC134a/CO2 were found to be the most eco-efficient solutions. The study was conducted in collaboration with the research institute FKW2 and supported by an advisory board of European equipment manufacturers and retailers.

Supermarket refrigeration technology is a key element in today’s food logistics chains to keep food fresh and healthy for the consumer. A recent survey3 has shown that the retail phase offers the greatest opportunities for energy saving along the entire food chain. Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are commonly used in commercial refrigeration equipment, because of their excellent technical and safety properties as well as energy-efficient performance. However, HFCs are greenhouse gases and can have an impact on climate when released into atmosphere: this is why they should be used in closed applications with emissions minimised.

Six commonly used supermarket refrigeration systems for low- and medium-range temperatures were investigated: among them were HFC technology and not-in-kind solutions, direct expansion, indirect (brine), and cascade systems. A Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) was performed to analyse environmental impacts. In a second step, a Life Cycle Cost Analysis covered installation costs and operational expenses. The results were combined in an eco-efficiency analysis to show the relative performance of the investigated options in terms of total climate impact versus total costs of ownership – with clear advantages for HFC134a/HFC404A and HFC134a/CO2 combinations.

1 A. Diehlmann (Solvay Management Support GmbH), C. Stadtländer (FKW GmbH): Eco-efficiency Considerations for European Supermarket Refrigeration Systems. Proceedings of the IIR Conference, 30. August 2005, Vicenza (Italy).
2 Refrigeration technology research institute FKW Forschungszentrum für Kältetechnik und Wärmepumpen GmbH, Hannover (Germany).
3 C. Meurer (Solvay Fluor GmbH), W. Schwarz (Öko-Recherche GmbH): The Fish Cold Chain – Basic Ecological Evaluations. Proceedings of the International Congress of Refrigeration 2003, Washington D.C.