Industrial refrigeration beginning to turn corner in Japan

By team, Jul 14, 2016, 11:22 3 minute reading

With recent innovations and government subsidies helping to increase uptake of ammonia (NH3) for industrial refrigeration, new data shows that the market tide is changing in Japan. Increasing deployment of NH3/CO2 secondary systems is helping to boost confidence, with over 1,000 units currently in place throughout Japan.

The GUIDE Japan 2016, published on 28 June, reveals that alongside other advanced regions such as the
 EU and North America, Japan is seeing a dramatic increase in the number of ‘next generation’ industrial refrigeration installations. Safety concerns are being mitigated by the use of NH3/CO2 secondary systems without compromising on efficiency.

Government subsidies have already contributed to the entry of over 1,000 units into the Japanese market, equating to just over 300 separate installations (113 of which were subsidised by the government). Appreciation of these systems is also growing worldwide, with 42 sets exported to Asia and Australasia and seven sets exported to North America.

NH3/CO2 technology is being used in a number of different applications in Japan, including food and chemical manufacturing. NH3/CO2 systems are increasingly being deployed in ice rinks, where the technology not only offers energy savings but also better quality ice. At least eight ice rinks in Japan are currently using NH3/CO2 secondary systems. Compared to the previous R22 ice rinks, annual power savings of up to 30% have been achieved. Compared to R22/glycol ice rinks, the energy saving is 46%.

The use of air as a refrigerant is also gaining popularity in ultra-low temperature industrial refrigeration facilities in Japan. So far, 54 units have been installed in a number of applications, including ultra-low temperature warehouses, rapid food freezing systems, and in the chemical process cooling industry.

Policy drivers for natural refrigerants in industrial refrigeration

The HCFC phase-out is expected to be the main driver of the wider introduction of natural refrigerants in the Japanese cold storage sector. Many facilities are yet to consider transitioning to other refrigerants ahead of the entry into force in 2020 of a complete ban on using R22. After this deadline, it will not be possible to service existing equipment with reclaimed R22, making the equipment obsolete.

The Ministry of Environment (MOE) provided five billion JPY in subsidies in 2014 to support the use of natural refrigerants in refrigerated warehouses, commercial refrigeration, and other refrigeration and air conditioning equipment. The scheme supported 36 natural refrigerant cold store projects in 2014, covering up to 50% of the investment cost.

An increased budget of 6.3 billion JPY for the 2015 financial year aided 72 installations, including the food production sector. For the 2016 financial year, the MOE again increased the budget, this time to 7.3 billion JPY, and added ice rinks and chemical manufacturing processing plants to the list of sectors eligible to receive subsidies.

Remaining barriers to the uptake of CO2 transcritical systems

The use of industrial CO2 transcritical systems is not yet widespread in Japan, although there are signs that such installations are picking up as a trend. A first CO2 booster system with a cooling capacity of 51kW was installed in 2016 for a tunnel freezer. Compared to new HFC systems, the CO2 technology delivers a 10-15% efficiency improvement.

At present, the main obstacle to wider deployment of CO2 systems in larger applications is the High Pressure Gas Safety Act. The Act regulates the production, storage, sale, transportation and other matters related to handling high-pressure gases, effectively banning equipment using CO2 above 40-50 horsepower. Anything with more horsepower requires an official green light.

Although the classification of CO2 as an “active gas” puts it in the same category as non-flammable fluorocarbons under the High Pressure Gas Safety Act, exemptions are allowed for certain refrigeration capacity ranges of equipment using fluorocarbons and ammonia. However, CO2 is excluded from the exemption list – just like hydrocarbons. Many key players consider the list to be outdated and are asking for it to be revised.

About the GUIDE Japan

‘GUIDE to Natural Refrigerants in Japan – State of the Industry 2016’ is the most recent addition to shecco’s GUIDE series, this time focusing on the key market, technology and policy trends for natural refrigerants in Japan.

The GUIDE to Natural Refrigerants in Japan is now available to download for free at and

By team (@ammonia21)

Jul 14, 2016, 11:22

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