How has F-Gas Legislation Affected Transport Refrigeration?

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Published: 20 October 2015


Will Hawkins interviews Thermo King Marketing Director, Laurent Debias on this question and other differences between transport refrigeration and static refrigeration applications.

What impact is environmental legislation having on your business?

F-Gas legislation not only influenced the static refrigeration but the transport industry too. The overall EU target is to reduce the potential impact of F-Gas by 79% by 2030. Within the rules of the F-Gas, they set a Global Warming Potential (GWP) limit of 2,500 of it by 2020. But, and this is a high 'But' in transport is that is applies to systems above 40 tonne refrigerant charge equivalent.

If you have R404A, all systems with more than 10KG will fall under the new F-Gas legislation. For other parts of the GWP level, in transport, we were let off on this one, because most of the systems in the field today are below 10KG of refrigerant.

In a sense, the transport industry was not impacted by the GWP level of HFC. But, having said that, F-Gas is not only looking at the GWP level, it is also looking at how you handle HFC. So, if you service a system, you need to register what you are recovering from the system, and you need to register the new charge you put in the system. There is a full aspect on the service side and our Thermo King dealers will need to register all of their HFC movement. In addition, they will have to perform a yearly leak check on all systems.

We are impacted for part of the F-Gas but not for the time being (I am sure this will change), but not on the GWP level of the F-Gas. Having said that, at Thermo King and Ingersoll Rand we have our own commitment to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, which includes the efficiency of the system, for our products by 50% by 2020.

We are also looking at how we produce our products. We aim to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 35% by 2020.

That must be affecting you think about your products and your service, because that is a big commitment?

Yes, one immediate action we have decided that even though we are not directly impacted by the F-Gas legislation, as mentioned, we announced that we will launch a new refrigerant that will replace R404A called R452A. We have worked closely with DuPont on the development of R452A for the last three years.

This refrigerant has a GWP of 1940, which means we are already cutting our potential emissions in half. We have introduced R452A on all our trailer products for the time being. Our truck range will also have use this new refrigerant.

We have also looked at how we can reduce the charge within our systems. By implementing new technologies, such as micro-channels, even in transport refrigeration systems we have been able to reduce the charge in our systems by, on average, 30%.

If you add the 30% and the 50%, we have an average GWP reduction of 69%. We are well on track to deliver what the EU is expecting from the industry in 2030.

That's not the end of the story and we continue to work on developments to reduce our GWP. But, we always need to look at the overall impact.

The industry is challenging and we need to create solutions that not only benefit the environment, but they are efficient and affordable for our customers.
Thermo King T1000R Spectrum R-452A - ACR Journal
The Thermo King T1000R Spectrum uses R-452A refrigerant

​In the context of the industry, margins are always tight so it must be a difficult balance to meet for your customers?

We need to think out of the box. We've made a very nice first step using R452A and micro-channels. This change made little change to the price of the new units. The units are a little heavier (15KGS). However, we need to make it feasible to buy for our customers.

Three years ago, we showed a CO2 closed loop system. CO2 has a GWP of one, and other natural gases have very low GWP. But, all these natural refrigerant gases required a huge change in the refrigeration system; they had a big change on the efficiency. To make up for the efficiency loss of adding CO2 you need to add complexity to the system.

I am not saying that it adds a lot in cost but it destroys a lot of the efficiency because you need more power to run the new system. You need to find a balance.

We need to keep in mind the overall emission of our system. R452A and micro-channel enabled us to have an immediate impact on our emissions.

But, R452A is a refrigerant which is useful for upgrading existing units. Customers can bring their existing R404A units to one of our dealers and they could upgrade it to the new refrigerant.

The physical challenge of one your products on a trailer is moving around. Your equipment must have to be robust to put up with the conditions?

Yes, we have an R&D centre in Prague where we have a we have a ‘Multi-Axis Shaker Table’ to test our products through a one million kilometre test. We push to the extremes not only for leaks but also for the other components to ensure our customers enjoy the quality and reliability of the products for some years.

On average, you can see trailers running after nine years, or some of our customers are pushing to 12 years.
They have to put up with a lot of different conditions and that is a big difference between static and mobile refrigeration units. Movement, yes, but our systems could run in Kuwait or Sweden.

​And you could maybe tailor the offer for a customer who is not going to see temperatures of 45 degrees in Sweden. But, their units could travel from there to Spain or Morocco.

We put very high standards on our ambient conditions and the rules for our products ensure they run from minus 30 degrees to plus 55 degrees.

That's pretty challenging to test against and provide a solution for?

Yes, and for some specific market demands, we have to restrict the ambient demands for some distribution. For example, if you have to reduce the noise level you have to further encapsulate the unit.

Another difference between transport and static is that most of the time a static application is that you know where it will be installed. And, secondly, you know what the set point will be.

It's static not only on where you know it is installed, and whether it is a deep frozen or fresh warehouse. Our customers don't just transport fresh produce, for example. They have to find what they can to transport and that might be frozen today and tomorrow it is fresh.

In that case, our customers have a set point that goes from +18 degrees to -30 degrees. That's another challenge.

Imagine the challenge. In transport refrigeration, it is completely different set of challenges to the static market.

What's next for Thermo King?

Laurent Debias, Thermo King - ACR Journal
Laurent Debias, Thermo King
It's on everybody's objectives to continue reducing emissions, from top to bottom. We've made this clear.
Thermo King also recently acquired Frigoblock. We believe this will help us to deliver an advanced portfolio for truck and trailer with non-diesel technology.

Some Frigoblock systems use a generator installed on the vehicle. That's something in the future that we think will enable us to offer an advanced portfolio across the two brands on non-diesel technology.

We have a Cryogenic technology where we use technology that needs no compressor or engine. You use CO2 as the energy source. You expand liquid CO2 and remove the heat from cargo load. That is going well.

here are logistic challenges. But that is another realistic solution in our portfolio. We are doing the right things to tackle the future.