CO2 refrigerant and its prospects in retail

In Russia, several dozen facilities have been launched on refrigeration equipment using CO2 refrigerant as the main refrigerant. This refrigerant does not harm the environment and is used as an alternative to freon. Metro, Auchan, and Lenta stores were the first to test the new technology in Russia. Sergey Pleshanov, Technical Director of Land, spoke in detail about these cases and explained why retail should think about switching to the use of CO2.

Today, Russian retail overwhelmingly uses refrigeration systems using hydrofluorocarbon (HFC). Refrigerants of this type, for example, such as R404A, R507A, R134A, have an effect on the greenhouse effect. But gradually the world community, including Russia, is moving towards replacing refrigerants with high global warming potential with safe analogues. The Russian Federation has adopted the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, which will enter into force for Russia on January 1, 2021.
Some Russian retailers have already anticipated the adoption of environmental standards and made the first projects on CO2.

5 years ago, the first CO2 store was launched in Russia

The Land Group of Companies annually designs, installs and launches more than 1,500 objects in Russia. The company's specialists, together with their foreign partners, constantly monitor the latest trends and processes that occur in the refrigeration market in the world in order to provide the latest developments to their customers in Russia.

Land Company has started preparing in advance for the consequences of a possible ban on limiting the use of HFC refrigerating agents. The first experience of working on carbon dioxide was obtained by the company back in 2015, when the first two hypermarkets – Lenta and Metro Cash & Carry  – were opened in Orel using natural refrigerant. On the basis of these facilities, individual training programs have been developed for each category of employees, separate specialized installation teams have been allocated to work with CO2. Also, for the purpose of import substitution, high-tech production of refrigeration centers, compressor units based on Dorin compressors, recovery stations and pumping stations for coolants has been localized in Russia.

Today, Land is the largest developer and installer of commercial carbon dioxide refrigeration facilities in Russia and provides professional services for their maintenance.

The company is a leader in the number of installed and launched facilities in Russia with the use of CO2 technologies. At the moment, 19 such facilities have been opened (the largest is under installation).

Why is the transition to CO2 inevitable?

On October 15, 2016 in Kigali (Rwanda) at the XXVIII meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol, the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol was adopted, providing for a phased reduction in the production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).

The adopted amendment provides for an individual plan for the phased reduction of these refrigerating agents (as a percentage of the baseline) for certain groups of countries. The Russian Federation entered the group for developed countries with the following plan to reduce HFC consumption from the existing level:

  • 2020–2024 – up to 95%;
  • 2025–2028 – up to 65%;
  • 2029–2033 – up to 30%;
  • 2034–2035  – up to 20%;
  • since 2036  – up to 15%.
To date, the Russian Federation has informed the Secretary-General of the United Nations about the adoption of the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, which will enter into force for Russia on January 1, 2021.

The Metro case: the result of using CO2 - saving energy resources

The Metro hypermarket in Solntsevo was installed and put into operation in 2018. The opening took place in 2019. The peculiarity of this project is the presence of a system for using heat taken from the refrigerant. A distinctive feature of the transcritical refrigeration cycle is the ability to obtain significantly more heat compared to the freon cycle, while not increasing electricity consumption. In the new store, heat is used to produce hot water and heat water for the ventilation system. A refrigeration machine using medium-temperature and parallel transcritical compression compressors, as well as low-temperature booster compressors with a total refrigeration capacity of 542 kW, gives the maximum effect in terms of reducing energy consumption. To cool the coolant supplied to the air coolers of industrial premises, liquid CO2 from the receiver is used in summer, and in winter, cooling occurs completely due to freecooling. Thus, energy savings are achieved. According to the customer's requirements, the first heat recovery system, designed for the needs of hot water supply, produces 75 kW of heat (consumption of 31.2 m3/day of hot water with a temperature regime of 15/65 ° C); the second system works for heating and produces 220 kW of heat (consumption of 312 m3/ day of hot water with a temperature regime of 27/42 ° C). Detailed information about this object can be seen in the video.
Схема транскритической холодильной установки «Метро» в Солнцево
Scheme of transcritical refrigeration unit "Metro" in Solntsevo

Баки рекуперации теплоты для отопления и горячего водоснабжения внутри машинного отделения
Heat recovery tanks for heating and hot water supply inside the engine room

Grigory Rashepkin, Head of the operation and reconstruction of refrigeration systems at Metro Cash &Carry, said: "Our company decided several years ago to use carbon dioxide. On the one hand, this was done in order to reduce the negative impact on the environment. On the other hand, we see the transition to natural refrigerants as an opportunity to gain competitive advantages in the future. We launched the first facilities according to a subcritical scheme, where CO2 is used only for low-temperature consumers, which made it possible to significantly reduce the amount of freon in the system and prepare a smooth transition to transcritical systems. Today we see that transcritical technologies allow us to increase the level of energy efficiency of the system, providing the store with heating and hot water supply. For Metro Cash&Carry Solntsevo store it's is a good opportunity to test theoretical calculations in practice, evaluate the features of the integrated use of the advantages of the transcritical CO2 system and decide on the optimal configuration of the system for subsequent stores within the current schedule for reducing the consumption of HFC refrigerants."

Auchan case: the first experience of using CO2

On December 12, 2019, the opening of the new largest hypermarket "Auchan" took place in Pushkino, Moscow region. In the Auchan Russia network, for the first time, the refrigeration unit operates on carbon dioxide on a transcritical refrigeration cycle for medium-, low- and high-temperature climatic consumers. The refrigeration unit, designed and installed at the facility by Land, has a total cold demand of 534 kW for the medium-temperature circuit, while the low-temperature circuit consumes 62 kW, and the climate system accounts for 195 kW.

Транскритические централи для «Ашан» Пушкино
Transcritical centers for "Auchan" Pushkino

The total cold demand of all consumers is divided equally into two refrigeration circuits. The design solution allows, if necessary, to switch 100% of consumers to one system. In winter, when the cold demand can fall by 50-70%, this technology allows in some cases to work completely on one system, which ensures continuous operation of the store during scheduled or repair work.

Evgeny Pronyakin, Chief Engineer of Auchan Retail Russia refrigeration systems, notes: "Auchan Company pays great attention to environmental care, therefore, schemes based on natural refrigerants are widely used in Europe and have now found application in Russia. In the transition to natural refrigerants, we also see an opportunity to gain economic advantages in terms of operating costs. The calculated data provide good indicators of energy savings, the Auchan Pushkino facility provides an excellent opportunity to confirm these figures in practice and make a decision on the further use of transcritical technologies in Auchan chain stores in Russia."

Experience of switching a working store to a new refrigerant

In 2019, Land implemented two Metro facilities in St. Petersburg and Tyumen using CO2 agent, but already as part of a complete reconstruction. The installation of the new equipment was carried out in the existing store with the gradual disconnection of the old equipment. To organize this process, an action plan was developed, which includes a clear sequence of actions from both the refrigeration and construction sides. This plan was successfully implemented without any loss of turnover and already in 2020 the customer came in with fully updated properly working equipment.

Транскритическая централь для «Метро», г. Тюмень
Transcritical Central for Metro, Tyumen

When implementing each object by the Land company, a feasibility study is mandatory. The calculation is based on the data of the program developed by the Danish Institute of Technology. The program takes into account not only the characteristics of the equipment but also the location of the object with an analysis of weather conditions over the years. It is worth noting that the results of calculations are confirmed in practice, and, as a rule, in reality, the implemented installations show a more powerful economic effect and a shorter payback period.

Dark store - prospects for CO2

In addition to the implementation of grocery stores, a promising direction in terms of the use of CO2 technologies is the dark store format ("dark store"). This is a store without customers, similar at the same time to the trading floor of an ordinary supermarket and to a warehouse, whose work is aimed at making online orders as quickly as possible. The development of such formats is becoming more and more relevant. The first to start implementing this direction in Russia was the Perekrestok network. At the moment, five objects have been implemented. The supply and installation of refrigeration equipment, as well as the installation of enclosing structures of cooled volumes was carried out by the Land company. The preliminary technical and economic calculation shows that when using CO2 as a refrigerant, the return on investment will be no more than 5 years.
Общий вид торгового зала dark store
General view of the dark store trading floor

Anatoly Trostenyuk, Head of the Department of Strategy and Development of e-commerce X5 Retail Group: "X5 Retail company pays attention to the environment and is constantly working to improve the efficiency of facilities. We are closely following the latest developments in the field of energy conservation and the use of alternative refrigerants, for example, carbon dioxide, as an environmentally friendly refrigerating agent. Carbon dioxide systems provide good indicators in terms of reducing operating costs and the payback period of capital investments. The dark store format is suitable for piloting and getting acquainted with CO2 technologies in practice. In addition, the direction of complex automation has already been tested on a large number of traditional stores. I believe that the combination of CO2 technology and integrated automation should allow us to achieve the most efficient operation of dark store format facilities."

Currently, carbon dioxide is used in large formats - super and hypermarket, while the maximum energy-saving effect is achieved by using heat recovery from a refrigeration unit to heat the trading floor or hot water supply. At the same time, on low-temperature equipment, the efficiency of the carbon dioxide system is 2.5 times higher than on systems with R404A refrigerant. The presence of low-temperature equipment in a large volume at the facility can significantly increase the efficiency of the system compared to the freon cycle and reduce the overall energy consumption of the system.

The experience of the Land company shows that the cost of CO2 equipment decreases annually, production facilities for the manufacture of equipment using natural refrigerant are localized in Russia, while the cost of freons is constantly increasing. Taking into account the adopted environmental amendments, in the near future this will create all conditions for the use of carbon dioxide in the mass segment in discounter formats.

If the return on investment on small formats is reduced by 3-5 years, we will get widespread use of CO2 in shop building, as is happening in Europe now.

Experience in operating carbon dioxide systems

High-quality service ensures the most stable operation of the equipment and allows the customer not to worry about the safety of the product in case of any external changes.

The Land-Service company is currently the largest organization in the Russian Federation in terms of the number of serviced facilities. There are more than 7 thousand such objects.

In 2020, the company has 21 CO2 facilities under maintenance. Maintenance of CO2 facilities requires serious qualification of employees. Land-Service Company started training specialists in this area in 2014, before the opening of the first CO2 facilities. With the appearance of the first CO2 facility implemented by Land, we received a kind of springboard for honing skills at the existing facility. In terms of service, with high-quality installation and a professional approach to maintenance, CO2 facilities have fewer critical failures. We can safely say that the stability of the equipment running on CO2 refrigerant is much higher than standard freon systems. Thanks to the advanced automation system "Danfoss" and the properties of CO2, the equipment automatically adjusts to any changes in the external environment and eliminates the occurrence of deviations from the mode, which leads to trouble-free operation. Even on peak hot days, when most freon installations are operating with stops due to high-pressure accidents on the injection line, CO2 facilities continue to stably maintain the set temperature regime, which is certainly a huge plus.

It is worth noting that a great advantage in the field of maintenance of cold supply facilities is a monitoring system with a remote control function. The indisputable advantages of the Danfoss system are automatic optimization of processes to improve overall energy efficiency, the ability to monitor and control any parameters remotely and remotely make adjustments to settings in order to increase the efficiency of the system, as well as manage events remotely, diagnose and eliminate emergencies that occur at the facility.

To fully realize this potential, Land Service has a separate remote control service that provides which works 24/7. At the initial stage of service by highly qualified specialists, in addition to emergency support, parameters are optimized to reduce the level of energy consumption, which allows achieving a reduction in the energy consumption of the store up to 36%. As a result, more than 52% of all incidents are solved remotely at a fully configured store, and a service engineer visits the facility only to eliminate accidents caused by mechanical malfunctions or to carry out scheduled maintenance.

The use of CO2 technologies in the modern world is the optimal solution in terms of the development of refrigeration technology in Russia, both from the point of view of environmental standards and from the point of view of the economic development of individual enterprises. The withdrawal of refrigerating agents from the circulation of HFCs will definitely have a significant impact on the refrigeration market in Russia, but with a competent transition to natural refrigerating agent CO2 from this situation, one can get a significant advantage in the market and even more real economic benefits, so all market participants should already think about a possible transition to natural refrigerant, test the solution at their own facilities.

The Land Group of Companies sees great potential for the development of carbon dioxide systems in Russia and has formed its own team of highly qualified employees. The team has practical experience and professional knowledge in the design, installation, and comprehensive maintenance of high-tech refrigeration systems using natural CO2 refrigerating agent and is ready to simultaneously conduct several projects in retail.

How to replace ozone-depleting refrigerants: characteristics and cost

Let's consider the main alternatives proposed for use as a replacement for the currently existing R404A, R507A.

To begin with, let's pay attention to the refrigerating agent R452, which affects global climate change by 40% lower than R404A, and which is considered by many companies as a transitional option for replacing the currently widespread freon. However, the price of this gas in 2020 exceeds the cost of the most common R404A at the moment by more than 10 times, which practically does not give it the potential for development. Propane is offered from natural refrigerants that do not affect the environment, but it is combustible and its use is limited to refueling no more than 150 g in the system, which does not allow it to be used for centralized cooling.

The most effective alternative to the commonly used freon is carbon dioxide (CO2). Let's look at the main advantages of CO2 in detail. Table No. 1 shows that CO2 is non-toxic and non-explosive, as well as completely safe for the environment. In addition, it has a high efficiency and has high energy efficiency, which allows you to achieve excellent energy consumption indicators - on average from 15 to 25% compared to systems on the R404A. The main thing is that CO2 is produced in Russia in unlimited quantities and is available in almost any region of our vast country at a price significantly lower than any of the HFC agents.


R22 was banned. How did this happen in Russia and how can this experience help retailers in the future?

To begin with, let's go back to the experience of 2010, when the restrictions affected hydrofluorocarbons (HCFCs). Recall that the withdrawal of such refrigerating agents is regulated by the Kyoto Protocol on the Reduction of Substances Affecting the Destruction of the Ozone Layer. Since the beginning of 2010, the import of ozone–depleting refrigerants – HCFCs - to Russia has been practically banned, that is, the commonly used refrigerating agent R22 has been restricted to import in disposable containers without any quotas. No government withdrawal or replacement programs have been developed. In fact, the market was focused on the domestic manufacturer, which was not able to provide decent replacements, and the limited quantities of "hladon 22" were supplied only in reusable barrels with a volume of 500 kg. It is worth noting that with the HCFC withdrawal program in Europe, programs for the conversion of ammonia industrial plants to R22 were actively developing in our country and the construction of new facilities continued, which significantly affected the total consumption of the currently banned refrigerating agent.

As a result, a huge number of enterprises and design and installation organizations were forced to purchase R22 at an inflated price several times, which led a number of companies to bankruptcy.

Probably, the current situation with HFC refrigerating agents will not have such a critical impact on the market, but given the experience of the past years, it is worth seriously thinking about the possible consequences. Companies that introduce new technologies at the initial stage will definitely benefit.