Refrigeration

Refrigeration is part of our way of life. It would be inconceivable for it to be any other way.
It has even become an essential ingredient to maintaining and improving our quality of life and maximising the use of food produce.

The cold chain enables the storage, transport and use of food items in ideal hygienic conditions, reducing losses and waste. Effective cold chain management begins on the farm and ends in the refrigerator at home. Commercial refrigeration equipment is used to maintain two levels of temperature. Chilled food is maintained in the range of +1°C to +14°C, (medium temperature MT), where the evaporating temperature for the refrigeration equipment varies between -15°C and +1°C. Most frozen products are kept at temperatures from -12°C to -20°C (low temperature LT).

Refrigeration of essential medical products such as vaccines and blood, is often indispensable for ensuring their preservation often at very low temperatures (as low as ‑70°C).

Industrial refrigeration covers a broad range of applications in buildings, power plants and IT centres and other technical equipment including the most sophisticated medical equipment (NMR nuclear magnetic resonance for example). Some processes require tight temperature control for example microchip production.

Thermal insulation using high-efficiency HFC blown foams reduces energy consumption of the refrigeration installations.

Refrigeration application Short description Typical HFCs/HFOs used
Domestic Refrigeration Refrigerators, freezers and fridge/freezers used for preservation of perishable goods in dwelling units. Sometimes also used in commercial and public sector organisations (e.g. in offices and canteens). R-134a, R-1234yf, R-1234ze
Commercial Refrigeration Storage, display or dispensing of frozen and fresh products for sale to end users, in retail outlets and food services. This includes hermetically sealed systems (bottle coolers, vending equipment, stand-alone display cabinets…), condensing units and central pack systems. R-1234ze, R-134a, R-404A, R-407A, R-407F, R-422D, R-448A, R-449A, R-450A, R-507, R-513A
Industrial Refrigeration Refrigeration systems used in industry sectors, like food processing, cold storage, data centers, chemical processing, district heating and cooling, etc. Cooling capacity could go from a few kW to 30 MW. R-1234ze, R-134a, R-404A, R-507
Air conditioning and heat pumps Equipment for human comfort in domestic, commercial and public sector buildings that include portable/split/VRF/multisplit a/c systems, rooftops, chillers, heat pumps, air-dryiers. Heat pumps could also be used in appliances like clothes tumble dryers. R-1233zd, R-1234ze, R-134a, R-32, R-450A, R-513A, R-407C, R-410A
Mobile air conditioning Small equipment for human comfort in cars, light vans, buses, coaches, lorries, tractors, trains, ships or aircrafts. R-134a, R-1234yf
Transport Refrigeration Vans, trucks, trailers, shipping containers and refrigeration systems for rail, ships and aircraft freight that preserve perishable foods during transport. R-134a, R-404A, R-407F, R-410A, R-452A
ORC (Organic Rankine Cycle) Cycle containing condensable fluorinated greenhouse gas converting heat from a heat source into power for the generation of electric or mechanical energy. R-134a, R-245fa, R-1233zd

Refrigeration applications vary widely in size with temperature levels ranging from  +15 to ‑70 °C:

  • Small hermetic systems in standalone refrigeration units where the entire refrigeration system is factory assembled and typically enclosed in one cabinet. Applications are freezers, vending machines and beverage coolers
  • Commercial refrigeration systems in large supermarkets are typically centralized equipment in a machinery room. In Europe there are estimated to be 120,000 with > 400m² sales area.
  • Industrial refrigeration capacities range from 10 kW to 10 MW. The refrigerant charges can also vary between a few kilograms to 80 tonnes. Globally, about 75% of the installed capacity is in the food sector and 25% in industrial processes and leisure.
  • The biggest trend in industrial refrigeration, which also forms an extensive challenge, is the constant focus on refrigerant charge reduction.
    See:TEAP TFXXVII4ReportJune2016

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Refrigeration applications vary widely in size with temperature levels ranging from  +15 to ‑70 °C:

  • Commercial refrigeration including standalone units: HFC 404A, HFC 134a, and HFC 410A
  • Industrial refrigeration: HFC 404A HFC 407C, and HFC 134a

The F-Gas Regulation 517/2014 has measures to control the use of some HFC refrigerants with higher global warming potentials in some refrigeration applications:

From 1 January 2020, HFCs, with a global warming potential of 2500 or more, cannot be used to service or maintain refrigeration equipment with a charge size of 40 tonnes of CO2 equivalent or more. This does not apply to military equipment or equipment intended for applications designed to cool products to temperatures below ‑ 50 °C. Reclaimed and recycled HFCs can continue to be used until 1 January 2030.

There are some placing on the market bans for refrigeration equipment:

  • Domestic refrigerators and freezers that contain HFCs with GWP of 150 or more: 1 January 2015
  • Refrigerators and freezers for commercial use (hermetically sealed equipment) that contain HFCs with GWP of 2 500 or more 1 January 2020, and that contain HFCs with GWP of 150 or more: 1 January 2022
  • Stationary refrigeration equipment, that contains, or whose functioning relies upon, HFCs with GWP of 2 500 or more except equipment intended for application designed to cool products to temperatures below – 50 °C: 1 January 2020
  • Multipack centralised refrigeration systems for commercial use with a rated capacity of 40 kW, that use HFCs with GWP of 150 or more, except in the primary refrigerant circuit of cascade systems where HFCs GWP of less than 1 500 may be used: 1 January 2022
    See also: European Commission – Climate policies

 

Lower GWP fluorocarbon refrigerants for refrigeration

New lower GWP fluorocarbon refrigerants, with similar properties to HFCs, are being developed and implemented for some refrigeration applications. In supermarkets, blends such as R-448A, R-449-A, R-449B, R-450A, and R-513A are now beginning to be used. These new refrigerants have GWPs that range from half to a third of the refrigerants that they are replacing. In the self-contained equipment category, early trials with HFO-1234yf and HFO-1234ze(E) have begun as well. The use of R-407A and R-407F (at approximately half the GWP of R-404A and with similar performance in systems) continues to grow in many parts of the world.  – Further information on alternatives to ozone-depleting substances.

Designation and safety classification of refrigerants
The cold chain