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Natural refrigerants may not the best solution, say industry experts

Need to weigh in factors such as cost, flammability and toxicity of refrigerants

| | Aug 23, 2016 | 11:02 am
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Dubai, UAE: When across the globe, governments, independent environment-conscious organisations and associations, and industries are undertaking measures to gradually phase-out refrigerants that are known to have high ozone-depleting potential (ODP) and global warming potential (GWP), industry experts debate whether natural refrigerants is the best solution to the pressing problem.

Dr Rajan Rajendran, Vice President of Systems Innovation Centre and Sustainability at Emerson Climate Technologies, feels that natural refrigerants is not the best answer as they “are too broad a class to make a general statement”. Elaborating his point further, he says: “Higher pressure, poor high-ambient performance (CO2), flammability (propane) and toxicity (ammonia) are associated with natural refrigerants, on a case-by-case basis. The total cost of ownership will vary depending on the equipment, refrigerant and usage.”

Concurring with his statement is Stuart Corr, TechnoCommercial Director at Mexichem Fluor, who mentions that there are no characteristic advantages with natural refrigerants. He says that there is a need to consider “the total cost of the use of a refrigerant, including measures taken to accommodate flammability or toxicity, as well as energy efficiency” before drawing conclusions. He advises that one should consider the overall lifecycle carbon emissions of the refrigerant, as against the natural/synthetic aspect.

Highlighting another valid point, Dr Veerle Beelaerts, Environment and Compliance Specialist at Daikin Middle East and Africa, says that it is important to take into consideration the application where a refrigerant will be put into use. While hydrocarbons, ammonia and CO2 can provide ecological and economical solutions for some types of applications, such as standalone fridges/freezers, portable air conditioners, industrial refrigeration and large-sized supermarket systems, Dr Beelaerts, says that “they are not suitable alternatives in other types of applications”.

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