What is in this article?:
Additional Sustainability Awards coverage:
Sobeys has installed transcritical CO2 refrigeration systems in 36 stores, more than any other North American retailer.
Sobeys has been a North American pioneer in the deployment of transcritical refrigeration systems that use only carbon dioxide as a refrigerant. (See “Refrigeration Systems Chillin’ With Carbon Dioxide,” SN, April 9, 2012.) When CO2 leaks from refrigeration systems into the atmosphere — in contrast to when it is produced by the combustion of fossil fuels — it contributes very little to global warming. That is why carbon dioxide is seen as a long-term alternative to conventional refrigerants, such as HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons), which have a global warming potential (GWP) up to 12,000 times that of CO2.
Sobeys now has 36 transcritical CO2 refrigeration systems in Quebec stores. Transcritical CO2 systems have been established as the company standard for new stores and significant store renovations. These systems have been found to cut energy costs for natural gas and electricity in Sobeys stores by 36% while virtually eliminating refrigerant leak-related greenhouse gas emissions.
Heat reclaim from the transcritical refrigeration systems is used to heat water and air spaces, including approximately 75% of hot water demands during peak times, and 100% during non-peak times. Seven of the transcritical systems capture the CO2 gas for water heating purposes without the need of a heat exchanger or pumping system. (Eight stores are being heated by natural gas recovered from landfill sites.)
Sobeys’ commitment to CO2-based refrigeration puts it ahead of the Paris-based Consumer Goods Forum’s 2010 pledge, which Sobeys has endorsed, to begin phasing-out HFC refrigerants as of 2015 and replace them with non-HFC refrigerants. (Smith is on the CGF’s global steering committee on sustainability.) The pledge by the CGF, made up of retailers and CPG firms, is a message to refrigeration manufacturers that “this is where we want to go” in the hope of spurring more deployment of non-HFC systems and “getting the cost-curve down,” Smith said.
Even as the price of transcritical systems comes down, the cost of retrofitting remains high, slowing down the retrofitting of existing Sobeys stores. As a result, Smith acknowledged, the transcritical system will represent a small percentage of the total installed base of refrigeration systems for “many years to come.” The company’s sustainability philosophy has to “align with our financial goals and business strategy,” he added. “Sustainability has a triple-bottom-line — environmental, social and financial.”
In the meantime, Sobeys is intent on reducing the leakage of its existing refrigerants. In the 2012 fiscal year, Sobeys cut its stores’ refrigerant emissions by 30.4% vs. the 2008 level. “We’ve had a tremendous improvement in leak reduction,” Smith said. “It’s a big example of what gets measured gets done.”