Speaking to hydrocarbons21.com at the ATMOsphere America conference in Chicago, Brazilian compressor manufacturer Embraco is optimistic about the growth potential for hydrocarbon refrigeration technology in the United States, with regulation set to play a key role in creating positive momentum.
Asked whether the company is seeking to market its hydrocarbon technology on the basis that it is designed for natural refrigerants, John Prall, technical support engineer at Embraco North America, said, “it becomes a simple equation – if I’m able to get better performance for less money, and if I’m able to reduce energy consumption too, then that’s a huge play”.
Hydrocarbon technologies are attractive to customers because they perform efficiently while at the same time benefitting the environment. “It’s a win-win for everyone,” Prall said.
He believes efficiency and performance will always come first, but sees “pockets of the market that do care more about the environment”. This, along with government regulation, is helping to grow the market for hydrocarbon technology in the United States, Prall argues.
Embraco presents new compressor, Plug N' Cool cooler
At ATMOsphere America, Embraco presented two new innovations: a new hydrocarbon compressor, and their ‘Plug N’ Cool’ reach-in cooler for grocery stores, supermarkets and restaurants.
The new propane compressor is designed specifically for the North American market. ‘It’s going to be our first commercial product built in North America,” Prall said.
Set for launch in October, the new compressor harnesses improved motor technology and valve design to improve efficiency by 25-35% compared to their current hydrocarbon offering, he said.
“We’re designing it for a very wide envelope, so it can be used from freezers to bottle coolers to ice machines,” Prall said. Most of the applications using the new compressor require charges of 60-70g, well within the 150g charge limit imposed by the US Environmental Protection Agency, he explained.
“It’s going to be cost-neutral to the product that it is replacing, roughly. Efficiency for free!” Prall said.
The Plug n’ Cool system for R290, meanwhile, is a complete cooling system designed for reach-in coolers in grocery stores, supermarkets and professional kitchens. It is ‘plug ‘n’ play’ solution that simplifies the installation process, allowing design engineers to easily build market-ready, water-cooled display systems. Due to its modular concept, Plug n’ Cool allows owners to move machines piece by piece, providing flexibility in the store layout based on specific needs and preferences.
A case study presented at ATMOsphere America analysed reach-ins in a supermarket using remote refrigeration with direct expansion and compared the same equipment using Embraco’s Fullmotion Plug n’ Cool system. The total area in the analysis was 2,150 square ft and used Electrofrio (a leader in commercial refrigeration in Brazil) equipment. The study found that Plug n’ Cool reduced the refrigerant charge by 98% (330 pounds to six pounds), reducing overall energy consumption and proving to be a more environmentally friendly option than traditional refrigerant systems.
To measure the impact of the solution on the environment, the study calculated the total equivalent warming impact (TEWI) and compared the results for the Embraco Fullmotion Plug n’ Cool and the conventional remote system. Considering direct and indirect emissions, the analysis found that if 10% of supermarkets in the United States were to migrate to the Plug n’ Cool solution, they would prevent the equivalent of 12.7 million tons of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere each year.
Hydrocarbon market gaining traction
“Plug n’ Cool allows original equipment manufacturers to use a natural refrigerant, which is significantly better for the environment,” said Prall, arguing that the system is cost-effective for retailers, “as they are able to maintain the systems themselves with a sufficient water supply and return lines to cabinets. This innovation can help improve their business by reducing downtime”.
He concluded on an optimistic note. “I’ve been working for Embraco for three years. When I first started, all I dealt with was HFC compressors. This year, I’d say 90% of my efforts are dedicated to hydrocarbon compressors,” he said.