CO2/NH3 hybrid solutions in focus - Interview with Jean-Claude Logel, Axima

By Alexandra Maratou, Sep 06, 2012, 10:00 6 minute reading interviewed Jean-Claude Logel of Axima Refrigeration, following his presentation at the ‘Advancing Ozone & Climate Protection Technologies: Next Steps‘ conference in Bangkok, Thailand on 21 July 2012. Mr Logel discusses the company’s experience with CO2/ammonia industrial and retail solutions in France and countries with warm climates, shares customer perspectives and provides an outlook on the natural refrigerant market in France, which can be boos You mentioned during your presentation that Axima Refrigeration installed their first NH3/CO2 (CO2 as brine) industrial refrigeration plant in France in 1997. What made you focus on this particular type of solution at the time?

Jean-Claude Logel: Our company has been involved in the recovery, purification, treatment and liquefaction of CO2 already since 1968 and so was very familiar with CO2 technology. Our customer, Nestlé was looking for a safe, sustainable long-term solution. Nestlé also considered CO2 as a safer option than all ammonia systems. We chose to go with CO2 as it was recognised as one of the best refrigerants and was also an old refrigerant that our company had used since the 19th century. France has a reputation as a country that is rather “unfriendly” to the use of ammonia but also hydrocarbon refrigerants. What recommendations would you give to French regulators?

Jean-Claude Logel: My recommendation would be to be in accordance with European regulations and with what is done in other European countries so we can have a level playing field and have a fair business environment. Germany is a very good example: we are thinking about a French/German partnership in Europe and for regulations, we should have the same partnership.

Concerning hydrocarbons, we are worried about a specific rule in France that forbids the use of hydrocarbons in installations with public areas, such as supermarkets for example. If regulations would allow us to use hydrocarbons in the same manner as we do with ammonia, namely with a restricted charge while confining the refrigerant to a safe area (machine room), this would enable the development of hydrocarbon based technology in France. Today you focus on CO2/NH3 hybrid solutions, with installations in the UK, Switzerland, France and Russia. How do these installations compare to solutions with synthetic refrigerants or direct ammonia systems in terms of energy performance and safety?

Jean-Claude Logel: Although we cannot share the results that our installations have delivered, we can say that we have made a performance control of the plant that was built in France and we have implemented measurement devices such as the flow meter on the CO2 to measure the energy efficiency of the plant. The efficiency was agreed between our customer and the French Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME), the latter having validated the overall efficiency.

Safety is of course paramount: we always apply the highest possible standards for safety. For the plant that we are currently building in Thailand, for example, we are applying European safety standards. Regarding the CO2/NH3 cascade system that you are currently installing for a Nestlé ice cream factory in Thailand, could you tell us why Nestlé chose this type of system?

Jean-Claude Logel: Nestlé is a company having a long-term vision and looks for the lowest total cost of ownership (TCO). TCO considers not only the investment cost, but also the cost of maintenance and above all energy consumption and its impact on environment over the lifetime of the plant. The system that we are implementing in Thailand is the optimum solution. The other important criteria is as I said before, safety for people and neighbours. Ammonia is an efficient natural refrigerant, however CO2 is considered as safer in particular when the refrigerant is distributed in production areas. What results do you expect where high ambient temperatures prevail?

Jean-Claude Logel: For the high ambient temperatures, we have taken into account the extreme conditions and have oversized all the condensation equipment. For example we took into account for Thailand a 30°C wetbulb, although if you look at ASHRAE or other standards, it is lower. We took into account higher conditions than those usually used. Some companies in the US are proposing CO2/NH3 cascade solutions for supermarkets, though they recognise that investment cost of such retail systems would need to come down before such a solution could become widely used. Would you agree with them on the suitability of the solution for the supermarket sector?

Jean-Claude Logel: Yes, we believe that this could be a very good solution for supermarkets. We have also installed a CO2/NH3 system for one supermarket in France and we are now building a new one for Carrefour also in France. However, the investment cost of this solution for retail applications would never be competitive to HFCs: it is not possible with ammonia because the price of the components are higher and the safety measures also add to the cost. But in terms of energy efficiency, I am convinced that CO2/NH3 solution is the best one you can provide, also for very hot countries. How do you see the market for natural refrigerants in 5 years time in France? Do you see natural refrigerants having a much wider use?

Jean-Claude Logel: I think that we have already increased the use of natural refrigerants, and if you have seen in my presentation we started with the first installation in 1997 with CO2 and today we have more than 100 units in operation. We have also seen that in 2007 we started with CO2 refrigeration in retail market and it has now become the standard solution for low temperatures. I believe that also for positive temperatures France will go to transcritical for the Northern part and the Southern part probably a cascade solution with CO2, and HFC or ammonia will remain the best solution. On a personal note, what are the 3 things that you would like to see to get natural refrigerants faster to market?

Jean-Claude Logel: The first thing is that we need clear regulation, starting from the revised EU F-Gas Regulation, as our customers need to have a view on the long term to decide which would be the best solution for them. We can only convince our customers if they are mindful of where they are going in the future. Another thing that ought to change is that customers should not only be looking for the short term investment but should be ready to take into account the total cost of ownership of their equipment, which will make it clear that natural refrigerants are the best thing for them.

Another important thing is training people because to develop natural refrigerants we need education in order to have skilled people. Lack of training has been a limitation in the development for natural refrigerants.

Axima is in fact creating a training school in France. We already have a recognised training agency but we are now creating a school with a diploma recognised by the National Education System. We are doing this because we need to train our own people who have to learn how to use natural refrigerants. This training school should be up and running at the end of 2012 / beginning 2013, and will be offering a training programme of one or two years where participants receive a certificate at the end. We have around 1,200 people in our company and not all are familiar with natural refrigerants. Not only do we have to train our own people but our customers as well.  


By Alexandra Maratou

Sep 06, 2012, 10:00

Related stories

Sign up to our Newsletter

Fill in the details below