2021 Predictions - Alternative Refrigerants

Published with Permission from the Author

As the page turns on 2020, Howe Corporation has been working to determine the technological shifts we need to prepare for in 2021. We predict that 2021 will bring conversations about alternative refrigerants to the forefront in our segment of the Poultry and Meat Processing industry.

Refrigerants have been targeted as a contributor to climate change due to their Global Warming Potential (GWP) when released into the atmosphere. Refrigerants are classified by their GWP and the relative impact to the atmosphere relative to CO2. Natural refrigerants typically have values less than 5 GWP and synthetic refrigerants can have much larger GWP values. These larger GWP values are driving the regulatory push to reduce the use of High GWP synthetic refrigerants. R-404A is specifically one that has been the target of many regulatory actions.


Trade Name (Chemical Name)

GWP (Approximate)

Natural Refrigerants

R-744 (Carbon Dioxide CO2)


R-717 (Ammonia, NH3)


R-290 (Propane, C3H8)


Synthetic Refrigerants







Regulators at the state level have been evaluating various regulatory actions that can be taken on these refrigerants to reduce the overall impact from refrigeration related industries including retail and industrial uses. California has recently passed a regulatory proposal that will impact new systems installed within the state. Industrial facilities will be subject to rules within two classifications: new/remodeled facilities and existing facilities. Existing facilities must install equipment with refrigerants between 1,500-2,200 GWP. New or remodeled facilities must install systems with <150 GWP. These rules only apply to closed circuit systems that use 50 pounds of refrigerant or more per circuit.

Manufacturers will be challenged to supply options to the industry that fall within these regulations. Processors who have invested and planned on using Ammonia systems will not see any changes to their approach moving forward. Market segments that use single circuit refrigeration systems will be challenged to find options that fall within these regulations for both existing and new facilities. These kinds of systems are used in some cold storage, icemaking, and other applications with a condensing unit providing refrigeration to one or more evaporators. Options for existing facilities are available in the marketplace for most of the equipment. We have been producing equipment compatible for the regulations on existing facilities for several years. For the past two years we have been advising our customers in California and Washington State to consider R-448A systems to future proof their facilities.  Options for new facilities and fully remodeled facilities will need to be developed by manufacturers to support the marketplace. Many paths to conforming equipment exist, but optimization needs to be completed to make these changes cost efficient and provide the flexibility the end user desires.

This challenge will initially begin as a call to action for manufacturers shipping equipment to California. However, this regulatory movement can spread to other states within the U.S. Climate Alliance. These states have previously enacted similar regulatory actions following regulatory action from California on refrigerants. If this trend continues there will be increased pressure on the industry to supply options for new facilities that utilize refrigerants with GWP below 150. Howe Corporation is preparing a technological roadmap to supply equipment to our customers who require stand alone systems that meet these requirements for both new and existing facilities. We expect the conversation to grow and we will be prepared if these regulations are put in place in other jurisdictions.