CHICAGO -- A new report is urging supermarkets to quickly develop a game plan for adoption of refrigerant alternatives as the deadline nears for the phaseout of chlorofluorocarbon production.
The report, commissioned by the Food Marketing Institute and introduced at its annual convention here, lays out guidelines and choices and analyzes 15 refrigerant alternatives to CFC. It calls for companies to form Refrigerant Management Programs, which would create company policy for the handling of refrigerants and the conversion to alternative substances.
The report, called "Guidelines for the use of Alternative Refrigerants in the Supermarket," steers away from laying out a single road map for all companies. Instead, it puts forward general conclusions and lists myriad options. These include the use of hydrochlorofluorocarbons and hydrofluorocarbons, two classes of alternatives. Among the recommendations:
· HFC refrigerants and HFC blends are recommended for use in all new retail store construction and as part of new equipment retrofits. · R-22 in existing systems shouldn't be converted to long-term alternative refrigerants at this time. Conversion of this popular HCFC is currently prohibitive because of cost factors.
· The phaseout schedule for R-22 established by the Copenhagen revision to the Montreal Protocol shouldn't be accelerated at this time.
· Manufacturers should attempt to improve the availability and cost of long-term alternative refrigerants and test their equipment and components with those refrigerants.
"There's no clear path to conversion" to alternative refrigerants, Thomas Brady, the author of the report, said in a refrigerant presentation at the FMI convention.
Brady, principal of Brady Consulting Services, Westchester, Ill., added, "The path must be decided by each operator, but you must make a plan."
John Seaberg, vice president of engineering and construction at Shaw's Supermarkets, East Bridgewater, Mass., urged retailers at the presentation to widely disseminate their strategies to move to alternatives within their companies.
"Your first step is to develop a corporate CFC policy, and everyone in your company needs to be under that policy," said Seaberg. "What is that policy? It's a statement of objectives and goals."
The FMI's refrigerant alternatives task force, part of the energy and technical services committee, provided input for the report.
Production of CFCs, which are considered harmful to the earth's ozone layer, will be banned as of Dec. 31, 1995. Products include R-12 and R-502, which are widely used in supermarket refrigerant applications. R-12 is most widely used for medium-temperatures and R-502 for freezer cases.
Many supermarkets are turning to R-22 for both medium- and low-temperature applications. However, R-22, considered a lesser pollutant, is scheduled to be phased out by the year 2030 and could be eliminated much earlier, according to experts.
Accordingly, many supermarkets are looking to HFCs as a longer-term refrigerant solution. These include such alternatives as R-134A, R-404A and R-507.
In discussing options for new retail store construction, the report puts the focus on HFCs, which aren't scheduled for phaseouts. "To break the chain of refrigerant conversions, it is recommended that HFC refriger-
ants be considered for new store construction," the report said. "Presuming the prior practice of using CFC-12 for medium-temperature refrigeration and CFC-502 for low-temperature refrigeration, two HFC refrigerants can be chosen for any one site. For medium-temperature use, HFC-134A is available in sufficient quantities and has properties similar to those of CFC-12. "Likewise, there are several HFC refrigerants available for the low-temperature refrigeration. In both cases minor modifications have to be made in the system application of these refrigerants."
R-134A is called a particularly good medium-temperature choice when considering such issues as flammability and operating pressure, the report added.
For low-temperature replacements for R-502, the report said, HFC blends would use some combination of two or more of the following refrigerants: R-134A, R-125, R-143A and R-32. The report recommended three ternary blends and one binary blend: R-407A, R-407B, R-507 and R-404A. Retailers will also have to pay attention to new supply logistics for HFC blend refrigerants. "Because the new HFC blends have only recently been introduced for widespread distribution, the supplies are not as consistently available as we have grown accustomed to with the CFC and HCFC refrigerants. As a result the lead time, from date of order to delivery of product, will likely be longer than experienced with CFC refrigerants. It is hoped that as production of these substances increases the supply problem will ease."
When it comes to conversion of existing store equipment and systems, the report points to a cost burden in choosing the long-term alternatives in some situations. "Conversion of existing stores to the use of HFCs can be done on systems currently using CFC-12 and CFC-502," the report said. "HFC refrigerants should be considered when converting systems with newer, more efficient equipment.
However, interim HCFC refrigerants remain the more cost-effective conversion options. The approximate cost for converting a U.S. supermarket (based on a size of 42,000 gross square feet) to an HFC would be $35,000, whereas the cost to convert to an interim HCFC would be $25,000, the report said.
The report found "little justification" at this time for converting plants that employ R-22 to the use of long-term choices. Instead of focusing on conversion of R-22, "available resources are therefore better allocated to the conversion of systems that currently use CFCs," the report said. "These refrigerants cost four to five times as much as HCFC-22, and new supplies will be commercially unavailable by the end of 1995."
Richard Oas, director of facility engineering for Safeway, Oakland, Calif., said the CFC cost and environmental factors make it imperative for stores to analyze the leakage situation.
"By 1995, CFC-12 will be twice the cost of an alternative, so if you have a store leaking more than it should and you can't seem to get it down, that store would be one of the first to convert. So identify those stores."