In Southeast Asia, important developments in the natural refrigerants market are continuing this year. This is especially true in countries such as the Philippines and Thailand, where co-operation between international organizations, local governments, equipment manufacturers and end users are creating a buzz around natural refrigerant technology in several sectors.
Just a few examples include Thailand-based Sanden Intercool which announced its aim to convert its entire line of commercial and professional refrigeration equipment to natural refrigerants, in particular hydrocarbons and CO2, by 2022.
Another Thailand-based company I.T.C Group, has recently developed a new type of transcritical CO2 refrigeration system aimed at the country’s agriculture, food processing and healthcare sectors.
Meanwhile in the Philippines, one supermarket will soon be the first to use all R290-based equipment (together with a waterloop system) at one of its stores, making it the first in Southeast Asia to do so.
These developments and much more will be highlighted on September 25, when shecco hosts the ATMOsphere Asia 2019 conference in Bangkok. At the event, several of the region’s leading end users, suppliers and key-decision makers will meet to discuss the key challenges and opportunities for natural refrigerants in Southeast Asia.
In the following interview, shecco’s APAC Business Development manager Jan Dusek (JD), shares his thoughts on what he believes these key challenges and opportunities are in the market for natural refrigerants in Southeast Asia.
shecco: How do you see the market for natural refrigerants developing in Southeast Asia currently?
Jan Dusek (JD): Now is a critical time, because we are seeing evidence of a lot happening on the ground with milestone natural refrigerant installations in several different sectors.
For example, we are seeing projects such as R290 chillers being used by a large pharmaceutical company in Indonesia, low-charge ammonia systems being deployed in cold storage facilities in the Philippines, R290 heat pumps and chillers being installed in Thailand, CO2 heat pumps for hotels in Vietnam, and even a CO2 transcritical plant being used in the food processing industry for margarine production in Indonesia.
Projects such as these are demonstrating the early adoption of natural refrigerants in these sectors, but we are also seeing the self-sustaining business case for natural refrigerants emerging in the commercial refrigeration sector. One example of this is the initial costs coming down for systems like R290 plug-in and waterloop systems for supermarkets and convenience stores.
There is so much happening and I would say that momentum is certainly building, but at the same time, we must be realistic about the challenges that the industry still faces.
shecco: What do you see as the key challenge that still needs to be addressed?
JD: Currently, more widespread availability of technology would be the key challenge. International suppliers from regions like Europe, North America, and Japan have certainly been active in Southeast Asia but I believe more commitment is needed to help continue building the business case for the end users.
Training and capacity building for the industry’s pool of engineers and technicians also needs to be scaled up. Several training initiatives in areas like CO2 and R290 are already underway and it is an encouraging sign, but more needs to be done to support the continued growth we expect to see in the next few years in Southeast Asia.
shecco: What about Southeast Asia-based manufacturers?
JD: Manufacturers in Southeast Asia and especially in Thailand have served as a major manufacturing base overseas markets like Europe and North America. Since their customers in these regions have been subject to increasingly strict f-gas regulations, Southeast Asian manufacturers have been driven to increase manufacturing capabilities for natural refrigerant systems such as R290 light commercial systems for export in the past few years.
This means that major manufacturers in Southeast Asia are already invested in manufacturing natural refrigerant systems and are now eyeing the opportunity to ramp up very quickly to supply these systems more regionally in Southeast Asia.
I think we will see an increasing number of these types of manufacturing companies grow rapidly in the next few years.
shecco: What role are the local governments and international organizations playing in this?
JD: I think they are beginning to see this sector as an area that has immense value potential considering their goals are to find ways to stimulate and support economic growth while also minimizing CO2 emissions. Natural refrigerants offer the perfect solution in this way.
One exciting development we have here is that representatives from Thailand’s Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning (ONEP) and Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) will be attending and presenting at ATMOsphere Asia. It will be an important opportunity for all stakeholders to engage each other proactively and collaborate more closely on the industry’s common goals of sustainable growth.
Additionally, I would like to add that some very important large-scale projects are now underway. Though I am not at liberty to discuss them in detail at the moment, it would suffice it to say that cooperation is happening now at very high levels in order to lay the groundwork for the road ahead for the next few years for Southeast Asia’s transition towards sustainable cooling technology.
I encourage all major stakeholders who see the opportunity to stake their claim in the early stage of this transformation to consider joining us in Bangkok on September 25. It is not too late.
The ATMOsphere Asia 2019 event will be held on September 25 in Bangkok, at the Bangkok International Trade and Exhibition Centre (BITEC) where Bangkok RHVAC 2019 is also taking place.
To see the latest programme, click here.
To register for the event, click here.