NH3 remains dominant in Europe’s industrial refrigeration sector by 2020 with “competition” from CO2, two new industry surveys show

By Klara Skačanová, Feb 17, 2014, 12:19 3 minute reading

The use of ammonia will continue taking a market dominating position in the next 7 years in Europe, with natural refrigerant CO2 growing in importance for increasingly popular cascade solutions reducing the NH3 charge. This is one key result from two industry surveys conducted by market development company shecco, and presented in the latest GUIDE Europe 2014, as well as at the first-ever ATMOsphere event in Asia.

Out of 284 respondents to a European survey among HVAC&R experts already using natural refrigerants, more than one in five (23.2%) use ammonia in their industrial refrigeration product portfolio today. Another 23.7% offer CO2 refrigerant solutions for the industrial refrigeration sector, whereas 12.3% complement their product portfolio with hydrocarbon-based solutions. Nearly one in ten (9.9%) offer solutions with water and air as refrigerants.

This is the result from an industry survey conducted by market development specialist shecco among 376 system and component suppliers, contractors, marketing and other companies involved in the European HVAC&R industry, independent of their current or planned use of natural refrigerants (NR). Results are presented in the latest “GUIDE 2014: Natural Refrigerants - Continued Growth & Innovation in Europe”, launched by shecco earlier in 2014.

For only those that today offer NR-based solutions, out of a list of eight application sectors industrial refrigeration is the one where the lowest total amount of HFCs and HCFCs can still be found in the companies’ product portfolio (combined 30.2%). This is not only a strong indicator of today’s market dominance of natural refrigerants in the industrial refrigeration sector, but also points to the weakest prospects for f-gas options in any single application sector in Europe.

The results also need to be interpreted against the backdrop of a looming HCFC phase-out in Europe’s industrial refrigeration sector as from 2015 onwards, as well as anticipated F-Gas rules to limit the use of HFCs which are both expected to provide even further momentum to the uptake of NH3-only or combined solutions in the next few years.

Outlook 2020: Ammonia dominant option with CO2 complementing new products

Among 220 respondents, including those not (yet) using natural refrigerants, a high 31.6% state that they will provide or use new NR products and services with ammonia in industrial refrigeration until 2020. Even more respondents (36.9%) will add new solutions for CO2 refrigerant to their portfolio, whereas 17.9% will develop or use hydrocarbon-based systems not available today for the European market. Out of a list of eight application sectors, new products for NH3 are expected to have the best prospects in industrial refrigeration, followed by industrial and commercial heating.

Being asked about the total market share of different natural refrigerants specifically for the European industrial refrigeration market in 2020, respondents estimate that NH3 systems will still be the market-dominating option with 43% of individuals active in this sector stating that those would have a “more than 50%” market share. Interestingly, the use of CO2 is expected to gain in momentum to reach a “21-50%” market share in 2020, 31% of respondents believe. The use of hydrocarbons is expected to remain significantly lower and mostly attractive in environments optimised for the use of flammable refrigerants, including the petrochemical industry.

Policy drivers to increase in impact on industrial refrigeration sector

Further evidence for a strong market presence of natural refrigerant-based solutions in sectors such as food production, processing and cold storage also comes from a second more tailored survey among 19 system and component suppliers active in the European industrial refrigeration sector. While the survey results confirm the market dominance of NH3 in the next seven years, they also underline that increasingly NH3-CO2 cascade solutions will be a major contender to NH3-only technology.

Safety considerations to reduce the ammonia charge in large systems are pronounced in Europe but are also spreading to other world regions, as most recent presentations at the ATMOsphere Asia conference have shown. While shecco presented the European and global perspective as regards the use of natural refrigerants in the industrial refrigeration sector, Japanese system suppliers confirmed that a variety of system solutions, including NH3-CO2 cascade technology, are currently optimised to be used in developed but also developing countries.

Talking about the change in the impact of selected drivers on the European industrial refrigeration industry, shecco’s presentation during ATMOsphere Asia also revealed that in Europe upcoming rules – such as the HCFC phase-out deadline or the anticipated changes to the F-Gas Regulation – will experience the strongest growth in importance on Europe’s industrial refrigeration sector, from a list of four factors. “Policy” hence ranked before “sustainability”, “technology” and “cost” drivers.


By Klara Skačanová

Feb 17, 2014, 12:19

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