CO2 refrigerant provides sustainability and security of investment
Ottendorf-Okrilla, September 2015 – The dispute over refrigerants and the EU F-gas regulation, which came into force this year, has led to many discussions, especially in the automotive industry. Dürr thermea GmbH produces high-temperature heat pumps, chillers and compressed-air refrigeration dryers under the trade name of thermeco2. All thermeco2 machines use the climate-neutral CO₂refrigerant, thus providing sustainability and security of investment. In the following interview, the two managing directors of Dürr thermea, Steffen Oberländer and Ronny Schneider, explain what markets and areas of application they have identified for their products – also in cooperation with other divisions of the Dürr Group.
Can you summarize how your equipment works?
Oberländer: Well, we manufacture two types of equipment: high-temperature heat pumps that recover energy from low-temperature waste heat and convert it into thermal energy for heating supply and for applications requiring process heat, and chillers which generate cooling for industrial processes and for air-conditioning as well as being able to produce thermal energy for heating supply and process heat. In both cases the equipment operates more or less in the way we are familiar with from conventional chillers and heat pumps. However, using CO2 as a refrigerant allows us to reach significantly higher temperatures, with reduced emissions.
Has the F-gas regulation led to a growing demand for your products which are based on the natural CO2 (R744) refrigerant?
Schneider: Yes, we have. The F-gas regulation that came into force this year is generating rising demand for products using climate-friendly refrigerants on the European market. This does of course include the naturally occurring refrigerant CO2. Compared to the alternatives remaining in the medium term, CO2 will make strong gains thanks to its ease of use – it is non-combustible, non-toxic, and cheap – and thanks to its versatility.
Could you briefly explain the background to the F-gas regulation for fluorinated greenhouse gases?
Oberländer: The main aim of this regulation is to reduce the amount of harmful refrigerants that are still in use and will at some point be emitted into the atmosphere. By the year 2030, their availability should be cut by 79% compared to today's levels. This will cause some serious bottlenecks on the European market. Given the usual period of utilization of 15 years, when considering investments in chillers and heat pumps it makes even more sense to choose the right refrigerant right from the outset. Even on a global scale, climate-friendly refrigerants will become an irreversible trend, which means the market outlook for our products is set to improve steadily, and not only in Europe.
Your products are used in a diverse range of applications: compressed-air refrigeration dryers are installed in several VW manufacturing plants, chillers generate heating and process heat in hospitals, a high-temperature heat pump is the most important element in the district heating network of a municipal utility. What are the key target markets for you?
Oberländer: It’s true, our target industries cover a broad range, from car manufacturers and their suppliers via the food and beverages sector, the meat and fish-processing industry right through to hospitals, hotels, data centers and similar buildings with a high demand for thermal energy and refrigeration. And last but not least, there are commercial local and district heat suppliers, as well as municipal utilities, energy service providers and municipal enterprises.
The two managing directors Steffen Oberländer (left) and Ronny Schneider during the interview.
Most recently you presented your equipment at trade fairs in Korea and China. Which are the markets that are of most interest to you, internationally?
Schneider: Because of the F-gas regulation and the climate and energy policy targets in the European Union, it is Western Europe, led by Germany and Austria as well as Switzerland, that are of great interest to us. In addition, we focus on countries in which Dürr has a strong presence, such as Korea, China, and Brazil. Because it is in these three countries that we have favorable conditions to for market access, thanks to the Dürr presence, and the situation bodes well for the use of heat pumps, with prices for electricity relatively low and prices for fossil fuels relatively high.
A few months ago, Dürr became the majority shareholder of your company. What benefits do you expect this to have for you?
Schneider: As I just mentioned, the Dürr Group facilitates our access to international markets in general on the one hand, and the other, in addition to their geographical presence, we are also given direct access to important customer groups like the automotive industry. And of course we benefit from the extensive know-how in terms of project implementation that Dürr has accumulated. One very important point is the Dürr brand, because it makes it much easier for a small company like thermea to reach large customers and to operate internationally.
Where do you see links with other Dürr divisions and their products?
Oberländer: We have seen growing cooperation with Dürr's Paint and Final Assembly Systems division, and our products are being requested for an increasing number of projects. There are possible applications, in particular, in the field of air treatment, i.e. dehumidification and reheating. We currently provide refrigeration technology with heat recovery for an intermediate dryer as part of a project for an OEM in Mexico. Further areas of application include heat recovery and increased energy efficiency during a current project for a major aircraft manufacturer in France.