Why are eco-friendly refrigerants gaining popularity in food manufacturing?

  • Articles
  • Apr 22,24
While environmentally friendly and ozone-friendly refrigerants provide a clear path forward for food manufacturing companies, their implementation carries certain system design and maintenance implications, writes Emily Newton.
Why are eco-friendly refrigerants gaining popularity in food manufacturing?

Most food manufacturers are facing the critical decision of which alternative ozone-friendly refrigerants to adopt, leaving them with much to consider in a relatively short timeframe. Why are manufacturers rushing to adopt eco-friendly refrigerants?

What prompted the emergence of alternatives? 
Numerous regulators and governments have outlined usage restrictions for synthetic refrigerants for decades. The Montreal Protocol, enacted in 1987, was the first significant step toward alternatives. It implemented an ozone-depleting substances (ODSs) phaseout after the discovery that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were causing a hole in the ozone.

The Montreal Project allowed exceptions for seemingly ozone-friendly CFC alternatives called hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). Their adoption rate surged in response in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Later, it emerged this chemical is hundreds to thousands of times stronger than carbon dioxide (CO2), making it one of the most potent greenhouse gases on the planet. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) accelerated the phaseout of ODSs in the 1990s and early 2000s under the authority of the Clean Air Act, primarily focusing on CFCs and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), which it categorizes as Class I and Class II substances. One of the latest moves by the U.S. government has been to ban R22 in 2020 — commonly known as Freon — after classifying it as an ODS.

As these regulations and agreements suggest, the push for eco-friendly refrigerants isn’t part of a recent surge in sustainability awareness. Rather, it is part of a decades-long strategy to make industrial refrigeration systems more climate and environmentally friendly.



Why eco-friendly refrigerants are gaining traction
Actions to phase unsustainable refrigerants down or out made under the Clean Air Act, the Kilgari Amendment and the Montreal Project, among other regulations, have forced industry decision-makers to recognise temporary solutions are not viable. 

Food manufacturers that switched from CFCs to HFCs to HCFCs in order to circumvent bans and rising prices quickly found their investments were misguided. They learned a costly lesson about system compatibility issues and diminishing supplies as the government continued progressing its phaseout strategy and changing its requirements.

The general public’s rising sustainability awareness will prompt the US government to continue taking steps to tighten refrigerant regulations. Considering climate change-induced severe weather events — which have quintupled in frequency in the past 50 years — account for 74% of global economic losses, inaction would speak volumes.

As such, environmentally friendly and ozone-friendly refrigerants remain the only viable long-term solutions. Many food manufacturers are proactively adopting them to prevent the financial fallout related to cheap, temporary solutions.

Eco-friendly refrigerants are gaining traction in the food manufacturing sector partly because they help secure long-term economic stability and also to ensure manufacturers won’t have to pay to overhaul their systems after a few years. That being said, they also possess various environmental and operational benefits. 



The advantages ozone-friendly refrigerants offer
In food manufacturing, eco-friendly refrigerants are growing increasingly popular because they offer both operational and sustainability-related benefits while remaining cost-effective. 

Blended refrigerants 
Although blended refrigerants are not nearly as environmentally friendly as their natural counterparts, they’re often more cost-effective — which has driven adoption by profit-minded food manufacturers. 

R410, commonly known as Puron, is among the most common blended refrigerants. It has an ozone depletion rate of zero. While it has a GWP of 2,088 — and the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol requires a GWP of 300 to meet phase-down targets — research groups are looking into making it more environmentally friendly.

Natural refrigerants
Natural refrigerants are more cost-effective than synthetic alternatives like CFCs and HCFCs. Since they require less power— some are up to 40% more energy efficient than HFCs — they can even enhance system performance. Notably, low operating costs offset their relatively high installation costs since they require little upkeep and rarely leak.

These refrigerants are also the most climate and environmentally friendly options available to food manufacturers. Ammonia, carbon dioxide and propane have low global warming potential (GWP) ratings of 0, 1 and 3, respectively — while synthetics commonly have ratings of over 3,000. Even blended alternatives are often rated relatively low in comparison.

The implications of alternatives in food manufacturing
While environmentally friendly and ozone-friendly refrigerants provide a clear path forward for food manufacturing companies, their implementation carries certain system design and maintenance implications. For widespread adoption to be successful, manufacturers must be considerate of them.

The main issue with natural refrigerants — and, to a lesser extent, blended alternatives — is toxicity. Manufacturers will have to contend with heightened safety requirements. Notably, flammability is less of a concern because hydrocarbons are far more flammable than ammonia or propane. 

The largest implication of adopting ozone-friendly refrigerants is compatibility. Since many existing units won’t be able to perform well — or at all — with drop-in replacements, many manufacturers will have to overhaul their systems. Additionally, factors like their intended operating temperature range or maintenance capabilities may limit their selection.

The bottom line of eco-friendly refrigerants 
While industry decision-makers didn’t prompt the surge in popularity of eco-friendly refrigerants, food manufacturers shouldn’t see it as a necessary compromise. Instead, they should embrace the change for its financial, operational and environmental benefits. If they’re proactive in their adoption or research and development, they may even gain a competitive edge – and protect their investment for years to come.

About the author:
Emily Newton is a tech and industrial journalist and the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized magazineSubscribe to the Revolutionized newsletter for more content from Emily. 

Related Stories

Smart Manufacturing
Intersection of 3D printing and laser cutting: A new paradigm in manufacturing

Intersection of 3D printing and laser cutting: A new paradigm in manufacturing

The intersection of 3D printing and laser cutting remains a niche area. However, it should gain prominence when people learn about use cases that demonstrate versatility and viability, says Emily Ne..

Read more
Smart Manufacturing
Growth, despite global constraints

Growth, despite global constraints

India’s manufacturing activity (with Purchasing Managers' Index at 58.8) witnessed a dip in April 2024 from the 16-year high in March 2024 (PMI at 59.1).

Read more
Smart Manufacturing
Rockwell's new study finds GenAI as top tech investment for manufacturers

Rockwell's new study finds GenAI as top tech investment for manufacturers

According to Rockwell Automation’s Global State of Smart Manufacturing Report, AI ranks as the top capability that manufacturers believe will drive the biggest business outcomes. 83% of manufactur..

Read more

Related Products

Programmable Controllers - Pcd-33a Series

CHEMICAL PROCESS, FOOD/PHARMA EQUIPMENT & ANALYTICAL INSTRUMENTS

Pro-Med Instruments (P) Ltd offers a wide range of programmable controllers - PCD-33A Series.


Read more

Request a Quote

Gasket Graphite Powder

CHEMICAL PROCESS, FOOD/PHARMA EQUIPMENT & ANALYTICAL INSTRUMENTS

Arihant Packing & Gasket Company offers a wide range of gasket graphite powder. 


Read more

Request a Quote

Asahi Kasei expands 3D printing filament sales in North America

CHEMICAL PROCESS, FOOD/PHARMA EQUIPMENT & ANALYTICAL INSTRUMENTS

Asahi Kasei, a leading resin and compounding technology provider, has initiated the sales of 3D printing (3DP) filaments in North America through Asahi Kasei Plastics North America (APNA). The soft la Read more

Request a Quote

Hi There!

Now get regular updates from IPF Magazine on WhatsApp!

Click on link below, message us with a simple hi, and SAVE our number

You will have subscribed to our Industrial News on Whatsapp! Enjoy

+91 84228 74016

Reach out to us

Call us at +91 8108603000 or

Schedule a Call Back