Rhodia claims that its new low temperature refrigerant gas, ISCEON 79, offers food manufacturers the opportunity to make significant energy savings without the need to increase capital expenditure.
It recently underwent rigorous independent testing from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), which gave it the number R422A and recommended a safety classification of A1, subject to public review.
Given the current fuss about emission targets, Rhodia is confident that its new refrigerant will also prove highly popular with manufacturers and plant operators.
"What makes our product stand out is its ability to reduce the negative impact on the environment," Rhodia marketing executive Katy Walters told FoodProductionDaily.com. "A major benefit is that it reduces global warming potential (GWP)."
Walters claims that the refrigerant has a 22 per cent lower GWP than other alternatives on the market such as R404A and R507. It was formulated in cooperation with UK firm Star Refrigeration to be a successor to current HFC alternatives and HCFC transitional blends, and Rhodia is confident that it is the most environmentally acceptable non-flammable refrigerant of its kind.
There is growing pressure on manufacturers to cut out greenhouse gas emissions altogether. The European Council agreed last Friday to reduce emissions of fluorinated greenhouse gases including hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6).
This decision, which will affect food processors and firms involved in refrigeration, underlines the fact that emissions reduction is currently one of the major issues in manufacturing. The EU needs to cut its greenhouse gas emissions to 8 per cent below 1990 levels by 2008-2012, as required by the Kyoto agreement, and this means that major manufacturers are under great pressure to find ways of cutting down on pollution levels.
"The legislation agreed today is another element in the framework we are building to curb climate change and to implement the Kyoto Protocol," said environment commissioner Margot Wallström.
"It is an important element because fluorinated gases (F-gases) have huge global warming potential - in some cases almost 24,000 times that of carbon dioxide. By agreeing on this legislation, Member States have once again taken concrete action to fight climate change."
ISCEON 79 was developed in anticipation of such changes in production practices. The bottom line is that food manufacturers in Europe have little choice but to cut down on greenhouse emissions or face government fines, and Walters would contend that changing their refrigerant to a more environmentally friendly form is the most cost effective means of achieving this.
"What we're hearing at the moment from manufacturers is the need to reduce emissions," said Walters.
"To achieve this, companies can carry out expensive maintenance and invest in new installations to reduce emissions through leakage. Or they can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 22 per cent just by changing their refrigerant, without any engineering or oil changes."
There is some evidence to suggest that the food production industry is turning to greener refrigerants as a means of achieving emissions reductions. Walters points to Peters Foods Services, a manufacturer in Wales, which switched to ISCEON 79 in cooperation with Rhodia's UK distributor, ISCEON Distribution. The company reported energy savings of 9 per cent without any reduction in performance.
Rhodia has now rolled out the product worldwide, and is confident that take-up will not just be limited to Europe. "We've just come back from an exhibition where we were inundated with people from all over the world who believe there is a market for this product in their country," said Walters.
Emerging markets such as China may prove tougher nuts to crack. But Rhodia believes that in the long term, cost effective refrigerants that are capable of significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions will achieve popularity in what is an increasingly interconnected industrial world.