Celebrating Akhil Dev’s Global Achievements!

Sometimes, it is easy in business to retain the status quo, in the sense of allowing employees to simply do what they always have done without stretching their skills and acquiring knowledge and further experiences. Often, a business will push a single employee or a small group out of the perception that those who shout loudest are somehow more knowledgeable or more able than their peers. At OMEGA Solutions, we do things differently! We carefully select our team members, not for a specific role, but for a wide-reaching role they can grow into. We truly invest in their development; we do not just pay lip service to our Mission, Vision, and Purpose (MVP); we live it daily. This way of working has paid significant dividends for a key team member and the business as a whole. Today, we celebrate recent achievements of Akhil Dev, who joined the OMEGA team in July 2023.

Akhil was known to the team at OMEGA before he joined, the grade he achieved in his degree was exceptional, and the knowledge and experience he has acquired since graduating has been first class. It would have been easy to allow Akhil to continue to produce high-quality designs and 3D drawings, but that would have been wrong with the highest calibre of engineering talent like Akhil.

Akhil has taken the lead on a number of significant projects since joining OMEGA, with one in particularly discussed in this news feature. It is without doubt the knowledge Akhil has required will make him one of India’s leading subject matter experts in CO2 refrigeration systems. Such is the knowledge that he has acquired; he now has the ability and skill set to work with in-country peers, support a significant jump from dated, high GWP refrigeration technology, and help transition India to a low-carbon future. Many organisations would keep their talented people a “secret” in the hope that they remain in a low-profile role. At OMEGA, we do not fear our people leaving; why? Because we fulfil their ambition and ensure they have the knowledge and understanding to become not only the best engineers but standout leaders of the future!

This particular CO2 project was commissioned by the world’s largest retailer, Walmart, and is summarised below. Akhil took the role of lead researcher for OMEGA on this project, as we worked in collaboration with an exceptional consultancy specialist DC Engineering who are based in the US. It is not just the team at OMEGA who are thrilled with Akhil’s output; our partnering consultant DC Engineering and Walmart themselves are delighted with the work that Akhil has produced. The output of this project will help play a part in Walmart’s transition to a low-carbon future, where the work of all stakeholders will help shape decisions and future strategic direction in refrigeration choices and delivery.

The Project:

The global call for environmental sustainability is driving engineers to develop designs that curb greenhouse gas emissions through low-carbon innovation. The commercial refrigeration sector, infamous for its use of energy-intensive technologies and environmentally unfriendly refrigerants when vented into the atmosphere, continues to be scrutinised while at the same time providing critical services to deliver a cost-effective and reliable ‘cold chain’ which keeps food fresh, frozen, and shelves full. Regulation and Environmental & Social Governance continue to be the key drivers towards eco-sustainable solutions. CO2-derived refrigeration technologies have emerged as a leading potential option among these solutions. This research project, headed up by Akhil, delivered the following outputs, where risks and opportunities were identified:

1.            Supply and purity

2.            Refrigeration system leakage

3.            Life cycle emissions and consumed power

4.            Resource and skills availability

Supply and purity

Currently, CO2 supplied to the food, beverage, and refrigeration sectors is generated as a by-product from other processes, typically from the manufacturer of fertilisers (ammonia), a relatively inexpensive captured waste product compared to other manufactured refrigerants. The project findings suggest a minimum 213% – 232% cost increase per tCO2 by 2050. This would mean that the cost per ton of refrigerant grade CO2 could rise to the equivalent of manufactured refrigerants, largely driven by potential supply shortages (seen in 2018 EU CO2 supply constraints). The purity of refrigerant-grade CO2 aligns with the food and beverage standard at 99.90%. However, the moisture content stipulated in AHRI 700 may require additional review at 10ppm, which has likely generated supply constraints recently experienced in the US market. The project recommends conducting a deep dive into the existing and future CO2 supply chain, as more confidence is needed to ensure demand will not outstrip supply and CO2 for commercial refrigeration will remain affordable.

Refrigeration system leakage

Regardless of the refrigerant’s chemical makeup, reducing refrigerant leaks and using low-carbon emitting high-performing systems should continue to be the primary focus of ongoing regulatory restrictions and drive innovation toward true eco-friendly designs across all sectors. The expectation is that leaks from CO2-derived refrigeration technology will have a much smaller environmental impact. Still, we cannot dismiss the importance of safety and the risk of higher energy use associated with CO2 leaks while adopting new technology. Typically, 80-90% of carbon emissions from a refrigeration system are produced through the electrical energy consumed, with 10%-20% due to refrigerant leakage. Lessons of the past must be taken into consideration to allow us to move forward positively. The project’s findings from thorough research suggest that system leakage for CO2-derived technology could be a growing problem as the refrigerant transition continues, with annual leak rates identified between 23% – 150%, with 100% annual CO2 refrigerant losses not uncommon across multiple systems.

Emissions and performance 

Assessments of total emissions and energy use for CO2 refrigeration systems have led to conflicting conclusions depending on who is asked. It’s essential to understand that there is no such thing as a “standard refrigeration design”. Therefore, benchmarking performance can be challenging. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of design iterations, all of which have differing performance and emission profiles. The project normalised comparisons to demonstrate differences between several low-carbon emissions alternatives in a like-for-like assessment that end users should consider before deploying performance-enhancing (addon) technologies.

From the analysis, the project established that CO2 refrigeration systems can consume more energy and have greater operational costs over their life compared with A2L and Secondary technologies. Consider 80% – 90% of a refrigeration system’s carbon footprint is from the energy they consume. Through greater investment, some inefficiencies can be avoided for CO2-derived technology, which will inevitably add cost and complexity from design to servicing.

From an emissions perspective, several factors were considered; more notably, annual leak rates, charge size, and energy consumed are the main emission factors. Total Equivalent Warming Impact (TEWI) or LCC (Life Cycle Carbon) must be considered for these calculations and not simply the carbon footprint of the refrigerant. Should grid supply become 100% renewable, CO2 refrigeration may be favourable regarding Scope 2 emissions but will attract higher operating expense costs, as demonstrated. The project recommended that more be done to support the end-user when looking at transition investment toward low-carbon emitting technologies; understanding the differences between technologies will support more informed decisions with a longer-term view of cost, risk, and emissions impacts. The project found that at a 5% leak rate, the A2L-derived system has the lowest total emissions, and at the highest leak rate of 30%, secondary systems have the lowest emissions, with CO2-derived systems sitting in the middle.

Skills availability

Available data reveals no supply shortages of engineers graduating with qualifications in the UK. The UK, for example, produces enough engineers every year to fulfil demand in all engineering sectors. This, however, would only be true if all graduating engineers entered this workforce and new engineers’ skills matched industry requirements – which they do not. Businesses report difficulties in recruiting engineers. More notably, many engineers need to gain the necessary hard or soft skills to be hired. Additionally, a limited influx of entry-level resources into the commercial refrigeration sector continues to be of significant concern. This indicates that the engineering workforce’s problem is not receiving the right education or targeting resources for the current and future economy. Combined with the increasing demand for highly skilled engineering to design, install and service more complex low carbon technology like CO2-derived technologies drove us to two conclusions:

1.            More must be done to attract resources willing to work unsociable hours with greater skills into the commercial refrigeration sector. Training those resources to increase knowledge and experience must improve as well.

2.            Work toward climate-friendly technologies which are less complicated to deploy and more cost-effective to service.

All indications are that the industry is working hard to deliver the first option. This study identifies skills and resource barriers within the commercial refrigeration and heating and cooling sectors, which could put these conclusions at risk and equally deter end users with limited entry-level resources from considering the adoption of more complex low-carbon emission technologies.

What Akhil Learned:

We are proud of Akhil’s research and significant contribution and for taking the lead on this high-profile report for the world’s largest retailer. From an employer perspective, it showcases the benefits of having a 100% belief in your team members and allowing them to reach their full potential. These are the key takeouts from Akhil, summarising the knowledge he has acquired and what he is looking forward to in the future as we continue to grow and expand here at OMEGA Solutions:

“Through delving into CO2, I have acquired insights into the global movement towards adopting lower GWP refrigerants and the critical nature of this transition. The adherence to codes and standards in design and installation practices is particularly notable, as observed in the EU and US.

I judged and analysed various retail refrigeration technologies based on energy consumption, cost, and emissions perspectives.

I developed a keen understanding of risk mitigation strategies when working with flammable refrigerants, along with the best practices to be followed during operation and servicing.

As an individual hailing from India, it is evident that there is an urgent need to establish stringent regulations and standards governing the design, installation, and management of low GWP refrigerant systems, including end-of-life refrigerant management protocols. It is imperative that India aligns itself with international best practices in this regard.

I will be pleased to share our learnings with industry peers, food retailers, and wholesalers from the South Asian market.”

Great job and well done Akhil!

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