After establishing that carbon dioxide would be its standard refrigerant for new beverage coolers, vending machines and fountain equipment, the Coca-Cola Company “will open the door” to hydrocarbon refrigerants for smaller cooler equipment, said Antoine Azar, the company’s global programme director.
Azar, who made the announcement at the ATMOsphere America conference last week in Chicago, defined smaller equipment as units that are 300 litres in volume or smaller, which accounts for about 10% of its equipment. “Everything above 300 litres must still be CO2,” he said. Below 300 you can go with either CO2 or hydrocarbons [either propane or isobutane].”
The decision would be made at the local level by the company’s bottlers. Coke will no longer allow R134a to be used in smaller units.
The reason for the move, said Azar, is the difficulty of using CO2 compressors in small equipment. “We have a lot of 150-300 litre certified equipment with CO2; the problem is 10%-12% higher cost,” he explained. “Below 150, the problem is compressor availability, finding a size that fits them.”
Coke has strengthened its safety requirements for equipment that uses hydrocarbons, noted Azar. The charge limitation is 50g; heat exchangers must be in one cube to reduce leak risk; all electronic components must be spark-free; and condenser fans must remain on in case of leaks.
“Our only concern with hydrocarbons has been safety,” said Azar. “We know it’s a great refrigerant.”
Azar left open the possibility that Coke would at some point allow hydrocarbons to be used in larger units.
Coca-Cola decided to change its refrigerant policy in the first quarter and has since communicated this move to its equipment suppliers, Azar said. Prior to making CO2 its standard refrigerant, Coke had allowed hydrocarbons to be used in its equipment. In the first quarter of 2016, 60% of its equipment purchases were for CO2 units, and the remainder were hydrocarbons and R134a.
Coca-Cola is striving to be 100% HFC-free in new equipment purchases within two years (except for some speciality equipment), Azar said. Currently new equipment is 65%-70% HFC-free.