Leading Thai conglomerate Charoen Pokphand Group shows strong support for naturals

By Elke Milner, Jun 11, 2014, 16:26 7 minute reading

At an ATMOsphere Bangkok event, organized during the 25th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol (MOP) in Bangkok at the end of October 2013, ammonia21.com got the chance to speak to Thanarak Kosalwitr from Thai-based conglomerate active in the food industry Charoen Pokphand Group (CPF), about their views on natural refrigerants and sustainability.

ammonia21: Looking from a sustainability point of view, what role does refrigeration play for your group, how important is it?
Thanarak Kosalwitr: I think mitigation of climate change is our key goal. We need to balance nature, and our organisation needs to take action. You can see from the global warming potential (GWP) score, if you use a natural refrigerant, there is less of a negative impact on the environment. 
Even though sometimes ammonia has a public image problem in regards to its toxicity, we have well-designed and safe systems. With good workmanship, good welding, well designed pipelines, proper installation, including the installation of an ammonia detector in the right position, then there are no problems with ammonia refrigeration systems. 
Using HCFCs will negatively affect an organisation’ bottm line because if the refrigerant leaks it is much expensive to replace compared to ammonia or air or CO2. Although when HCFCs leak their release does not hurt us directly, they indirectly hurt by damaging the climate. We have take preventative action. 
ammonia21: Why did you opt for natural refrigerants instead of HFCs?
TK: I think that the key thing we took into consideration was the lifetime of the refrigerant, and the fact that one day HFCs will not be allowed due to their effect on the climate, whereas naturals are hear to stay; they are more sustainable. We may have to pay a little bit more not, but in the future we will gain it back. 
ammonia21: Do you think your company, with such a global presence, can have an influence on the development of the HVAC&R market, or can play a leadership role in the adoption of natural refrigerant solutions?
TK: We are a business, so if we have the key “win-win” strategy, then we can convince others to follow. Sometimes enforcement is not effective in changing a lmarket, but instead what you have are market players looking at our each other and asking “what technology do you use?” In a competitive market sometimes this has more of an impact. To enforce and say, “hey, listen to me,” does not always achieve the desired results, but setting a good example will lead others to follow. You have to believe in your goal and ensure you are completely aligned with your mission. We have to believe that this is the way that we have to operate our organisation and the sustainability code we have to implement. 
ammonia21: How many systems and which kind of systems do you have that use natural refrigerants right now?
TK: I have to say that right now we have only ammonia systems, but we are studying CO2 recirculation. Because we use more than one supplier, when we are selecting HVAC&R technologies we have to open projects up for tender. We have to ensure we are transparent and that there is an open playing field for everyone. 
ammonia21: Do you have enough competitors offering natural refrigerant solutions to you?
TK: I think we have a competitive market right now. Mayekawa offers CO2 cascade system, and then there are solutions offered by GEA Grasso and Frick. Many companies operate in field of natural refrigerant industrial solutions.
ammonia21: Do you have a strategy to use this in your various plans around the world or would you rather focus this locally right now? 
TK: We are expanding our business around the world, so competitiveness and effectiveness are very important. If the technology is available, then the new key question for us is: is it easy to operate? We have heard that Mayekawa has completed an installation that has been maintenance free for five years but I want to hear from other suppliers about their technologies too. If it’s environmentally friendly, and easy to use, then we will consider it. We are already changing one of our plant refrigeration systems from ammonia to cascade. 
ammonia21: How do you make sure that there is no issue regarding the level of training or expertise for working with these kinds of systems?
TK: What’s very important is that we have to select a good supplier who will not simply sell us a system and then leave. The supplier has to stay with us and if we have a problem, they need to continuously come and teach us. We have this from Mayekawa, GEA, and with Johnston Controls, and like I said, we are open to working with other companies too.

ammonia21: Can you define the business case for natural rerigerants – do they make sense in economic terms, for you?
TK: When we are comparing new projects, we compare look at all angles – upfront investment costs, operation costs - which includes energy costs and maintenance, and how easy the system is to handle – is it too sophisticated and unuser-friendly. If we all three of these angles are met, then why not invest? You have to compare every angle.
ammonia21: So it is basically in your interest that these natural refrigerant solutions get a bigger market share so that the cost for you goes down?
TK: It is better for everyone. When we serve a meal to our customer, we do not simply serve good food, we serve an experience. So it’s tasty, you enjoyed it, you’re full, but that’s not it. To enjoy the meal everything has to be aligned. For example, even one of our factories right now doesn’t even look like a factory anymore, it looks more like you have gone to a big hotel resort, so people can enjoy the work-life balance there. So you see, using natural refrigerant gases is one way we ensure we produce meals that are “good” from a more holistic point of view, but this is only one piece of the puzzle, we do many things. 
ammonia21: You mentioned in your presentation the cost difference between R22 and an ammonia system is not that big anymore.
TK: At 100kW it the refrigeration plant is 40 - 50 meters away from the refrigerated product, then the operational cost of R22 is not cheap anymore because of the system’s limitations. It is not only me, who says this, but also our system designers, and our suppliers. If the system is a big industrial one like the ones we use, there is no way you can get such good efficiencies as with ammonia, so there is no reason to use CFCs. 
ammonia21: You also mentioned that in the future you want to be innovative in terms of testing and trialing new solutions, for example air or cascade systems using CO2?
TK:  We will start using a CO2 cascade system very soon and are looking also into Pascal Air. There differences in the solutions offered by our suppliers in terms of design, which are currently looking into to evaluate the best option for us. PascalAir is suited to our very low temperature freezing needs, and what we are doing it arguing that Pascal is a new invention for which funding support should be made available. 
ammonia21.com: How do you close the price gap, because PascalAir is probably going to be more expensive than other technologies?
TK: The reason it’s expensive is because it’s not in mass production yet. If you have mass production for PascalAir, it will be cheaper. For example, in Brazil where CO2 systems are becoming more and more common, we see the technology achieving cost parity with traditional refrigeration systems. 
ammonia21: What would you tell participants at this Montreal Protocol meeting saying that solutions for natural refrigerants are not available?
TK:  If they say it is not available, then I would say – how is it then that I am using it? Natural refrigerant solutions are available. 
Thank you very much!


By Elke Milner

Jun 11, 2014, 16:26

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