MANY in the shipping industry are focused on solutions that provide alternatives to less desirable refrigerants. This is driven by environmental regulations and concerns over the availability of traditional refrigerants as well as their cost, which has increased significantly over the last year.
“Our customers are interested in solutions that will help lower their environmental footprint and provide compliance with hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) phasedowns,” Willy Yeo, told Daily Cargo News.
The director of marketing, global container refrigeration, for Carrier Transicold refers to the Kigali Agreement, an amendment to the Montreal Protocol, signed by 197 nations in October last year.
As per the agreement, these countries are expected to reduce the manufacture and use of HFCs by roughly 80-85% from their respective baselines, until 2045. This phasedown is expected to arrest the global average temperature rise by up to 0.5 degrees Celsius.
“Considering that container refrigeration systems have a 15-year lifespan, forward-thinking shipping lines making purchasing decisions today would be wise to consider efficient container refrigeration systems that use natural refrigerants with ultra-low GWPs, such as NaturaLINE,” said Mr Yeo.
Carrier Transicold’s NaturaLINE unit has attracted interest from many in the Asia-Pacific region. Major shipping lines, including Maersk Line and Hapag-Lloyd, as well as leasing companies have units on order and in evaluation.
“NaturaLINE also offers exceptional refrigeration performance, including the ability to achieve a minus 40 degrees Celsius set-point. Not all container systems can do that,” said Mr Yeo.
“Other examples are our intermodal container-leasing customers in Europe who are introducing NaturaLINE units into their fleets to offer customers more environmentally sustainable alternatives.”
Of Carrier’s container refrigeration choices, the NaturaLINE unit is unique in that it uses the natural refrigerant carbon dioxide (CO2 or R-744), which has an ultra-low GWP compared to HFC (R-134a and R-404A) and HFO/HFC blend (R-513A) refrigerants used in conventional container refrigeration systems.
“This helps reduce the potential environmental impact of container operations. With a carbon-neutral GWP of 1, CO2 is unaffected by phasedowns of HFC refrigerants, such as the European Union’s F-gas Regulation,” said Mr Yeo.
“The NaturaLINE unit takes customers directly to an end state, bypassing the need for intermediate refrigerant solutions.”
Some shipping lines have converted to drop-in substitutes – synthetic refrigerants that offer similar performance but have GWPs about half that of the replaced HFC refrigerant.
Mr Yeo notes, however, that two major drop-ins – R-452A, used in place of R-404A, and R-513A, used in place of R-134a – have GWPs of 2,150 and 631, respectively, so will be impacted by the Kigali phasedown.
CO2 is a non-ozone depleting gas that has an A1 safety rating by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers for low toxicity and no flame propagation.
“This is significant as some alternatives being considered by the industry are flammable, which in our view is an unnecessary risk to introduce to a container vessel. Capping off CO2’s benefits, it is widely available and relatively inexpensive,” said Mr Yeo.
Energy efficiency is also key to sustainability as it helps reduce the amount of energy ships need to generate to power refrigerated containers. This saves fuel and reduces emissions related to onboard power generation, and thus helps reduce the carbon footprint.
NaturaLINE container system claims to reduce lifetime carbon emissions by as much as 28% compared to previous standard units.
Pallets designed for reefers
Distributed through Eco Pallets in Western Australia, the Eco-1090 reefer plas-tic pallet is ideally suited to sub-zero temperatures and offers an innovative alternative to its wooden counterparts.
Director of Eco Pallets, Matt Logan, tells Daily Cargo News, “The raw material and manufacturing process – thermo fusion compression moulding – provides the strength to withstand sub-zero temperatures over long periods without degrading or weakening”.
“Plastic composition makes it the hygienic option, able to be hot washed, steamed or chemically cleaned.”
The 1090 x 1090 mm footprint makes the Eco-1090 a good fit for reefer containers and allows users to save on space.
The comparative advantages of these pallets are primarily that they are made from 100% recycled materials, from post-consumer waste plastic. They can also be fully recycled at the end of their life.
“The Eco-1090 plastic pallet is reusable and has a lifecycle up to ten times that of wood,” said Mr Logan, adding that they are also safer with no nails or splintering.
Where cargo requires hygienic conditions the Eco-1090 also excels as it significantly reduces the risk of contamination to food and pharmaceutical products according to the distributor.
“The plastic does not rot or harbor bacteria like wooden pallets,” said Mr Logan. “And, the product has comparative environmental benefits merely by the fact that it doesn’t contribute to deforestation.”
“Eco Pallets also offer a buyback service on pallets meaning cost savings to customers. The pallet is then resold and transferred through the supply chain on multiple occasions,” he said.
A wooden pallet, heat treated for export purpose, can cost between A$10-$20, depending on the size.
“When a one way wooden export pallet arrives at its destination point it is usually tossed away due to being broken,” said Mr Logan.
“The Eco-1090 costs the same and is capable of being reused multiple times. You have all the benefits of plastic at the price of a wooden pallet.
“Now that the price of the pallet types has narrowed significantly, the plastic pallet industry should grow rapidly in the next five years,” he said.