Yes! There Are Natural Refrigerants For Commercial Refrigeration

The refrigeration sector is now undergoing a phase where all the existing conventional refrigerants are being permitted to be neither consumed or produced. For a better future, immediate demand to look for clean and eco-friendly refrigerants are made. Everyone is now looking for refrigerants that do not contribute to ozone layer depletion and global warming. The use of natural refrigerants like NH3, CO2, and hydrocarbons like R600, R290, R600a and other blends of hydrocarbons is a possible solution to this ongoing problem, and they are being used efficiently. Here are the reasons why natural refrigerants are being used for commercial refrigeration:

Refrigerants have changed throughout the years.

It has been decades since the vapor compression cycle was introduced, it uses a refrigerant as a fluid to transport heat from the cold to the hot side of a refrigeration system. We use the same thermodynamic cycle in the present day, but manufacturers have taken a path away from the toxic and flammable refrigerants to safe but long-term sustainable solutions. 

With safety standardization now tied with technology developments, it is not possible to move towards real long-term solutions with zero ODP or Ozone Depletion Potential and GWP or low Global Warming Potential refrigerants. 

Environmental issues

In the beginning, all refrigerants were environmentally friendly by definition, because they could be found in nature. In the 1930s, it was discovered that there were safety issues involving a lot of these refrigerants and a lot of fires and poisoning based on leakage had happened. 

In the present day, synthetic safety refrigerants called the CFC or Chlorofluorocarbons were invented, and they were used globally. In the 1950s HCFC or partly chlorinated refrigerants and the R22 were introduced. In the 1970s, it was discovered that these refrigerants have a very long breakdown time in the atmosphere, and they also cause destruction of the ozone layer. 

The CFCs have a very high Ozone Depleting Potential while HCFCs are modest. Because of this, the Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the Ozone layer was established, which is considered a global success in reducing dangerous chemical substances. HFCs, which are the substitute refrigerants, have no ODP but medium to high GWP. Because of the threat of climate change, the usage of HFCs is now being scrutinized to reduce their impact on the environment.


Sustainable solutions are in the best interest of everyone in the refrigeration industry. They ensure long-term investments, and they ensure compliance with corporate social responsibility. It is clear that the refrigerant choices once labeled as sustainable, were not. So when talking about refrigerants and their long-term sustainability, three parameters must be aligned in order to accomplish a sustainable balance, they are safety, affordability, and the environment. 

Regulatory forces 

In 2014, a new amended F-Gas regulation was adopted in Europe. This states that by 2015, there will be a phasedown on HFCs. By 2018, it is expected to fall to 63 percent of current usage, which is a significant drop. The final target of 21 percent of today’s usage is expected by 2030. This creates a significant challenge for the industry.

The phasedown is managed by specific sectoral bans and quota allocations on high-GWP HFCs. Aside from the refrigerant phasedown and phase-out mechanisms, governments are applying other measures for reducing refrigerants that have a massive impact on the environment. 

In North America, SNAP or the Significant New Alternatives Program includes the hydrocarbon R290 as an alternative for small charge refrigeration applications. 

Sustainability measures tell us that there is no doubt that the environment will continue to have an important role when defining the development of the usage of refrigerants. Manufacturers require long-term solutions that are eco-friendly. In looking for alternatives, everything points to lower-GWP solutions. Natural refrigerants are by definition, low-GWP solutions and they will become the choice whenever possible. Safety will still be the main factor in regulating the usage of refrigerants. 

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