2020 - World Refrigeration Day



World Refrigeration Day, the "Coolest day of the year"

26 June is World Refrigeration Day, the day when the importance of refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pumps is celebrated all over the world. HVAC/R is a significant part of our daily lives, yet most of the time it is hidden from view. As if to say it’s there, but you don’t see it.

CAREL has decided to make an active contribution to World Refrigeration Day 2020 and work to promote awareness of just how important HVAC/R is.

Our campaign in support of World Refrigeration Day revolves around natural refrigerants, a topic that is very dear to us and is linked closely to environmental sustainability. Indeed this link is how we envisage the present for our sector and the future of our planet.

Using an infographic, we will explain some facts that will help you learn more about the world of natural refrigerants. Here you can find a selection of simple concepts and more complex notions, reflecting the different levels of detail possible and the paths that can be taken to understand more.

Finally, the educational video is a valuable tool for exploring the world of natural refrigerants.

When did natural refrigerants start to be used?

Natural refrigerants were first used almost 200 years ago. The first steam compression machine was built in 1834 using ethyl ether as the refrigerant. The patent for this machine covered all the elements of the modern vapour-compression system: compressor, condenser, expansion device and evaporator. Around that time, carbon dioxide and ammonia started to be considered for use as refrigerants. The first carbon dioxide refrigeration system was developed in 1862, while the first machine working with ammonia was designed in 1872. However, numerous fatal accidents that occurred in the 1920s, when methyl chloride leaked out of refrigerators, led companies to start researching less dangerous methods of refrigeration. That research led to the discovery of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which replaced natural refrigerants at the beginning of the 20th century.

After a century dominated by different synthetic refrigerants, with each generation of products replaced by a new one due to findings on their harmful effects on the environment, natural refrigerants have started to be used again. Now in the early 21st century, the most popular natural refrigerants are carbon dioxide, propane and ammonia.

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white paper

Which refrigerant can help prevent its own emissions?

Greenhouse gases are those that trap infrared radiation, contributing to global warming, and carbon dioxide (CO2) is the primary culprit, being emitted as a result of human activities. In particular, energy production, industry and transport are the sectors that produce the most CO2 emissions.

Refrigerants used for refrigeration and air conditioning also emit CO2 into the atmosphere. The amount of emissions differs according to the refrigerant. One of the refrigerants with the lowest CO2 emissions is...carbon dioxide (CO2)! Other refrigerants, such as R-22 or R-404A, contribute 10, 100 or even 1000 times more to the greenhouse effect. Moreover, it should be considered that CO2 does not contribute to climate change, as is obtained as a by-product from industrial processes and would otherwise be emitted into the atmosphere.

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How many kg of CO2 have the same effect as 1 kg of R-404A?

The contribution of a refrigerant to the greenhouse effect is indicated by its GWP (Global Warming Potential), an index that specifies the effect of a gas released into the atmosphere compared against the effect of CO2. For example, one of the most common HFC refrigerants, R-404A, has a GWP of 3922, which means that 1 kg of R-404 has the same greenhouse effect as 3922 kg of CO2!

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Who promoted the use of CO2 as a refrigerant in the modern era?

Gustav Lorentzen was a scientist from Norway who rediscovered CO2 as a refrigerant in heating and cooling applications. This rediscovery happened in the late 1980s, a crucial period for refrigerants, as the Montreal Protocol had just been signed (1987) with the aim of preventing damage to the ozone layer caused by high ODP (Ozone Depletion Potential) substances. The transition from HCFCs towards HFCs (HCFCs being ODP refrigerants; HFCs being non-ODP refrigerants) was just starting when Gustav Lorentzen warned:

"We should not try to solve a problem by introducing another problem."

However, the use of HFC refrigerants was extended to almost all HVAC/R applications. Effectively, Gustav Lorentzen was right: the use of HFCs introduced another problem for the environment, having a negative influence on the greenhouse effect.

Since 1994, every two years, researchers on compression refrigeration circuits around the world meet in a different city to share their work and experiences on natural refrigerants in honour of Gustav Lorentzen.

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How much did the price of R-404A increase in 2017?

European F-gas regulations were published in 2014, establishing restrictions on the use of HFC refrigerants according to their Global Warming Potential (GWP) and introducing the concept of quotas, which dictate the admissible production/import of HFCs to be reduced to 93% (2016), 63% (2018), 45% (2021) and 21% (2030) compared to the average consumption in the period from 2009 to 2012. The reduction from 93 to 63% led an increase in prices and a decrease in the availability of high GWP refrigerants such as R-410A or R-404A, driving the use of much lower GWP alternatives. In 2017 alone, the price of R-404A increased by more than 900% in Europe!

The next reduction, from 63 to 45%, will be in 2021. This means that this year (2020) will be key to understanding the refrigerant market scenario through the variation in refrigerant prices, especially HFCs.

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What is the effect by which pressure becomes speed?

The Venturi effect describes a phenomenon by which the pressure of a fluid moving inside a closed duct decreases while the velocity increases when passing into a narrower section. This effect is explained by the Bernoulli Principle and the principle of mass continuity: if the flow of a fluid is constant but the cross-section decreases, the velocity must necessarily increase after passing through this section.

An ejector is a device that exploits the Venturi effect and uses a primary fluid flow (typically the high pressure gas cooler outlet in a CO2 system), accelerated through a choke, to draw in, mix and carry a secondary fluid at lower pressure to the suction side or a liquid receiver. Energy savings due to the use of ejectors are particularly significant for CO2 systems operating in warmer climates, where losses due to expansion are high.

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Script non cancellare - World Refrigeration Day