Natural refrigerants in Europe & North America: Different market trends, same barriers

By Janaina Topley Lira, Jul 05, 2012, 15:08 4 minute reading

While market forecasts for HFC-free solutions differ between the North American and European HVAC&R industries, technician training and a general lack of awareness remain important barriers to the adoption of more sustainable technology, as presented by shecco at the 10th Gustav Lorentzen conference. The exclusive insights were based on two shecco surveys, a global one and a North American one, which is still running.

The two world regions with highest immediate adoption potential for natural refrigerant solutions, Europe and North America, share a common view on the challenges that lie ahead for the HVAC&R industry. Both regions, despite their very different starting points when it comes to the adoption of HFC-free technology, point to training and technician know-how regarding installation, maintenance and energy optimization, as the most outstanding stumbling block for faster market uptake of natural refrigerants. This is despite North American confidence that it will become a world leader in such technology in the near future.
 
These first conclusions are drawn from a global survey conducted by marketing & communications expert shecco in 2011 among end-users, system and component suppliers, and the research community, and a second survey currently still running, only for the North American market, which has so far has received 280 responses. Nina Masson, Head of Market Research, presented survey results during the “Emissions Policy” session on 26 June at the 10th GL conference in Delft. 
 
Presentation sparks debate regarding market shares for HFOs vs natural 
 
Replying to questions about the viability of natural refrigerants versus newly proposed low-GWP HFCs by the European Partnership for Energy and the Environment (EPEE), Masson pointed out that seeing the progress made in research and manufacturing solutions in all end-use sectors, there would be no reason to prolong the use of fluorinated gases for the coming years. On the contrary, she questioned market projections presented by EPEE where the share of natural refrigerants equaled zero in the domestic heat pump sector, and only a minute share in the residential A/C sector, both taken up mostly by high-GWP traditional refrigerants and a group of “Blend 300” and “Blend 700” refrigerants partly not yet commercially available. 
 
The market outlook
 
Masson only presented a snapshot of first results when comparing the market outlook for the use of HFC-free commercial refrigeration. While 59% of Europeans think that these technologies could make up more than 21% of the market, Americans are slightly more conservative in their projections. Here, 46% believe the market share will be in the range of 21%+ range. Given the only very modest use of CO2 in supermarket systems in the US and Canada, this projection is encouraging and suggests a more rapid uptake by committed supermarket chains than happened even in some European countries. 
 
The barriers
 
The presentation, however also acknowledged that besides the lack of skilled personnel – a problem persists throughout the industry regarding misconceptions about natural refrigerants use, safety levels and performance. North Americans point out that the lack of uniform standards, building codes and regulations at the federal and State level adds to the problem. 
 
The strengths & leadership potentials
 
Both surveys looked at the strengths of natural refrigerant solutions as compared to conventional F-gases solutions. The environmental aspect, including not only direct but also indirect emissions savings in form of reduced energy consumption, was rated as by far the most outstanding strength as compared to F-gases system, followed by performance and reliability, and life cycle costs.  
 
While Europeans are confident regarding the uptake of CO2, ammonia and hydrocarbons especially in the commercial and industrial refrigeration industry, North Americans still seem undecided as to which market position to assume in the near future. Responding to the question “How do you evaluate the overall capacity of the North American industry to become a world leader in natural refrigerant technology?” 50% of those that were already using or producing such solutions assumed a “moderate” capacity, while a quarter were confident that North America would have a “high capacity” to play a leadership role. Among the American organisations not planning to use natural working fluids a third was sceptical, seeing only minor to no capacity to lead the global industry in a move towards natural low global warming solutions. 
 
About the GUIDEs to Natural Refrigerants
 
In 2011, shecco conducted the world’s first global survey on the market prospects for HFC-free technology solutions with more than 1,200 responses received. The results for the European market were published this February in the free “GUIDE to Natural Refrigerants 2012 – Market Growth for Europe”. Since February the publication had 83,000+ pages viewed only online. 
 
The results from the North American survey will follow in a new “GUIDE” on the US-American, Canadian and Mexican markets, launched later this year. To be able to draw solid conclusions shecco is now looking for more input. If you have operations in North America, please fill in the survey: http://guide.shecco.com.
 

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By Janaina Topley Lira

Jul 05, 2012, 15:08




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