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AXIMA Refrigeration: priority to natural

Refrigerants are used in the refrigeration and air conditioning industry to operate refrigeration systems (refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners, etc.). In fact, they have significant heat absorption properties when they change from their liquid phase to their gaseous phase. In France, refrigerants (HFCs) are responsible for 5% of greenhouse gas emissions. Since 2015, they have been progressively banned from the market in favour of more natural fluids (CO2, ammonia, hydrocarbons in particular) in order to comply with environmental standards.

AXIMA Réfrigération, an EQUANS brand, is at the forefront of helping its customers to replace their HFC refrigerants with these natural, low-carbon fluids.

    • AXIMA Refrigeration (ARF) has a long history of expertise in the use of ammonia, which has been used since the advent of the refrigeration industry in the late 19th century. Ammonia is a naturally occurring gas composed of hydrogen and nitrogen. It can result, for example, from the decomposition of organic matter or bacteria in the soil. It is rich in nutrients and is used in the manufacture of fertilisers.
    • ARF's expertise in the capture and processing of CO2 also enabled it to quickly grasp the use of this fluid in industrial refrigeration applications from the 1990s and then in commercial applications from 2000-2010. CO2 is a natural refrigerant because it exists naturally in the air. It is an odourless and non-flammable gas that is widely used in industry.
    • ARF offers a complete range of low carbon solutions with a strong focus on the use of natural fluids, grouped under the name ILICO2 (Initiative Limitation Impact CO2). The program was initiated in 2011 and was the winner of the ENGIE Innovation Awards in the "success stories" category in 2017.
    • ARF has natural fluid technical solutions adapted to all links in the cold chain (agriculture, food processing industries, logistics, supermarkets) over a wide range of temperatures and a power range from kilowatts to several megawatts.
    • Today ARF has installed several thousand systems using natural refrigerants in France and throughout the world, representing several hundred megawatts of power installed at our customers' sites.
    • ARF has achieved many firsts in France which have now become market standards:
      • 1st transcritical CO2 in 2010: standard today in supermarkets, in strong development in industry and logistics
      • 1st positive refrigerant CO2 in 2008, plus combination with ammonia spray chiller in 2012: standard today on large logistics platforms
      • 1st propane "waterloop" shop for a major food retailer in 2016 (more than 1,000 shops of this type today)
      • 1st high power warehouse (3MW) with CO2 ejector systems in 2021
    • Between 2015 and 2021, fluid consumption (fluid loaded on new systems at our customers' premises and in maintenance) expressed in CO2 equivalent has fallen by 62%, while ARF's turnover has grown strongly over the same period and purchase volumes in tons have increased slightly (3)%. This means that:
      • The refrigerants used now have a considerably lower GWP (Global Warming Potential) than in 2015, which reflects a consequent use of natural fluids.
      • The quantities of refrigerants used per unit of turnover have decreased.

     

    Our results go beyond the objectives of the F-Gas regulation at the European level which imposes a 55% reduction over the period 2022-2024 compared to the 2015 reference.

    • ARF has invested heavily in recent years in the development of training courses in natural fluid technologies:
      • CO2 training in 3 modules over 3 weeks (unique in France)
      • Training in propane systems o Training in the maintenance of ammonia systems
    • ARF continues to innovate in the use and promotion of natural fluids
      • Installation and promotion of 2nd generation CO2 systems to improve energy efficiency
      • Very low temperature cooling in air expansion
      • Use of water as a refrigerant (air conditioning, urban networks)
    • AXIMA Refrigeration is now working on the development of the use of natural fluids in heat pump applications which allow the replacement of productions using fossil fuels and the recovery of industrial waste heat.

    HVAC – Air quality and climatic engineering

    Challenges

    Because our clients provide care, welcome the public, build tunnels and ships, manufacture batteries and run nuclear facilities and "pharmaceutical factories", EQUANS designs and installs air treatment and indoor climate control solutions that ensure the well-being and safety of users and the quality of the processes while delivering performance that lasts.

    EQUANS offers state of the art solutions in HVAC to provide:

    • High performance heating and cooling systems based on the latest generation of heat pumps
    • Air control systems providing clean air in buildings, hospitals, ships, transport infrastructures, nuclear activities, clean and dry rooms… Our main difference is our integrated model from design - and using the most sophisticated flow calculation software and energy optimisation - to installation, maintenance and operation.

    References

      EQUANS takes part in the installation of electrical and HVAC equipment for the largest hospital in Wallonia, the Grand Hôpital de Charleroi (GHdC): 156,000 m², 23 operating rooms, 32 intensive care units, 986 beds. The entire project is carried out within the framework of a BIM (Building Information Modelling) procedure.

      State-of-the-art heating and air conditioning systems are installed:

      • Chillers 10 MW
      • Ventilation is provided by around a hundred air handling units, installed in the technical rooms of the building, for a total flow of 1,200,000 m³/hour.

      The EQUANS teams are concentrating on the buildings called “hotfloor” and “Factory” which will house the most critical medical activities (such as surgery rooms and intensive care units) where every detail is important.

      We are working on the complete electrical solutions for the building: 1,300 km of structured copper cabling,12 km of fibre, 2,325 badge readers for access control, 6,300 nurse call devices, nearly 10,400 fire detectors and 31,500 kVA standby generator sets to guarantee continuity of services in all circumstances. Lighting will be controlled via the KNX protocol, which will offer great flexibility and the possibility of achieving significant energy savings, etc.

      In order to both increase its production capacity and boost its competitiveness, STMicroelectronics launched the construction of its R3 plant at its Milanese industrial site in early 2019. Production is expected to start in the second half of 2022.

      STMicroelectronics has entrusted EQUANS Industrie des Procédés with all the HVAC installations, as well as all the process fluid networks required for the operation of their wafer production. A project completed in record time (12 months) in the midst of a health crisis and shortage of raw materials, with the Italian teams of Omega Concept Impianti e Sistemi and the engineering team of Axima Concept France. In France, in Crolles (Isère), on one of the group’s most important sites, another project concerns the creation of approximately 6,000 m² of clean room producing 300 mm units, as well as all the technical installations necessary for its operation. STMicroelectronics has entrusted EQUANS with the HVAC/ Process Fluids work packages, particularly concerning thermal fluids, solvent exhaust networks or process gas distribution. Estimated completion date: March 2023.

      Northvolt built an electric battery “gigafactory” in Skelleftea in northern Sweden featuring 48,000 m2 of anhydrous rooms. EQUANS entity AXIMA provided design and construction of the anhydrous clean rooms, which ensure extremely low relative humidity.

      Our offer in energy production and renewable solutions

      As a partner to energy producers, EQUANS designs, builds and maintains energy plants to guarantee the highest level of production. Our teams build and help transform, store and recover the energy produced, reducing the facility costs, risks and ensuring the safety of people and the plant. We guarantee service continuity and ensure compliance with regulations (monitoring, discharge levels, environmental protection). We can also renovate and improve existing infrastructure, then oversee later decommissioning and disassembly.

      References

        CONTI, a subsidiary of EQUANS USA, took charge of the installation of Anson Solar in Texas, a largescale energy project (capacity: 200 MW).

        CONTI was selected as the prime electrical contractor to deliver the installation of PV modules across 2,200 acres of land and to complete the installation on time and on budget. The client had to assess the risks to all neighbouring environments and acquire the required permits. CONTI had to commission the project with as little ecological impact as possible while staying in line with the client’s budgetary and scheduling targets. The impact of performed work on all local stakeholders needed to be considered at each step in the process.

        This project included the installation of all PV modules, a mechanical tracker system, structural pile supports, PCS (SCADA), a fibre-optic communications loop, medium voltage and all DC wiring, instrumentation, and built and installed combiner boxes.

        The gas-fired boiler system that supplied steam to the DSM Nutritional Products production facility in Sisseln (Switzerland) was out-of-date and had to be replaced.

        There was a clear goal in mind – to create a progressive, sustainable system and make fossil fuels a thing of the past. The new solution also had to create value for the region and make use of local energy sources. The old gas system was replaced with a woodfired CHP (Combined Heat and Power) plant. The power plant is fueled by wood chips from the local area, and produces steam and electricity. The electricity the plant produces is fed into the local grid. The wood-fired CHP plant features new technologies, such as fixed sensors used to measure the moisture content of the biomass supplied.

        This system is the first of its kind to be used in Switzerland. The new wood-fired combined heat and (CHP) power plant achieves a high rate of efficiency and saves 50,000 tons of CO2 per year.