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Italy and Argentina united for more sustainable commercial refrigeration

I knew that this business trip would be different from the others. Going more than 11,000 km away together with representatives of Italian refrigeration companies to explain what is currently happening in Europe definitively seemed promising. “We have 10 refrigeration experts who are like Messi at football”, was how Prof. Cavallini introduced us in Messi’s home capital city. This was very kind of him. In any case, this time it was a win-win match. Hopefully, a small victory for the success of the big league that is being played by all countries: the transition to low GWP refrigerants to reduce the greenhouse effect.

The matches were played in Buenos Aires and Rosario on 4 and 6 December. Specifically, two workshops were held entitled “Commercial Refrigeration: Experiences on new Low-GWP Technological Alternatives”, with Argentinian refrigeration stakeholders as the audience. The first players to kick the ball were the event’s promoters: UNIDO and the Argentinian and Italian Environment Ministries. This ball contained a very clear message: “We have to cooperate to make the transition to lower GWP refrigerants easier”. This transition is dictated by the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which will come into effect on 1 January 2019. Argentina, being in Group 5, will start the phase-out of HFCs in 2024, with a 10% reduction from 2029. “A date that seems far away, but in fact is not, so we have to start work now if we want to be ready”, stated Laura Beron, coordinator at the Argentinian Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development.

As demonstrated in Europe, changes are faster than we could have imagined, and the drivers are sometimes different that we could have guessed. This was what we tried to convey to a very attentive audience in both the political capital and the refrigeration capital of Argentina. In particular, the main driver of the transition in Europe has not been the bans dictated by the F-gas regulation, but rather the market itself, with a drastic increase in prices due to the other part of the regulations: quotas.

The current refrigeration situation in Argentina is somewhere in the past, with a touch of the future. Whereas R-22 is still widely used in refrigeration, the first supermarkets with CO2 are being opened. Like a goal on the counter-attack. Considering that refrigerant leaks in existing systems are between 30-70%, the implementation of CO2 and flammable refrigerants is definitively a very challenging task, and the Argentinian Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development is very aware of this. There is an additional concern: this is the first time that developing countries have adopted technologies almost at the same time as developed countries, due to the fact that they do not intend to adopt HFC technologies but rather are directly changing over to lower GWP refrigerants. The help from UNIDO and the cooperation with developed countries is definitively the key to successfully make the transition that Kigali Amendment dictates.

The contribution of our Italian team started with a complete overview of the use of low-GWP alternative technologies. “If you can move to natural refrigerants, this is the definitive solution”, stated prof. Cavallini. In this regard, Francesco Mastrapasqua from EPTA and Adrian Muresan from Mario Dorin presented some solutions for natural refrigerants, with particular emphasis on CO2. The game strategy changed slightly with the presentation by Edoardo Monfrinotti from Chemours, who proposed several HFO refrigerants. It was then my turn, and I tried to convey how important it is for the transition to low GWP refrigerants to go hand-in-hand with high efficiency, making an efficient control system with modulating components essential. After me, play switched to compressors, heat exchangers and gas coolers, with very interesting presentations by Sidney de Avelar from Embraco, Enrique Aparicio from LUVE and Gabriele Dal Belin from Alfa Laval. The need for training on good practices in the implementation of new systems was emphasised by Marco Buoni, technical director at Centro Studi Galileo (organiser of the workshops). Finally, Fortunato Della Guerra from Inres Coop gave some examples of supermarkets with both cascade and transcritical CO2 systems in Italy. To conclude, Marta Comte and Laura Beron from the Argentinian Ministries closed the session with a realistic view of the future: what concrete actions they will take with supermarkets and what mistakes made in the past have to be avoided.

As I mentioned at the beginning, it was really a win-win match that could only be celebrated with excellent carne argentina and very good vino tinto. We toasted to continuing cooperation between our countries. We toasted to a more sustainable cold chain. We went to sleep with the dream that the Kigali Amendment will be as successful as the Montreal Protocol. May we wake up some day with the news that thanks to the efforts of the refrigeration sector, global warming is under control.


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