We present an exclusive interview with Marc Chasserot, founder & CEO ATMOsphere, at the ATMOsphere Europe Summit 2023 in Brussels.
Sergei Mukminov, editor-in-chief of Refrigeration industry: Well. First accept my congratulations. Great event.
Marc Chasserot: Thank you.
RI: So, please share how and why you started ATMOsphere?
Marc Chasserot: I started ATMOsphere nearly 20 years ago because I could see that there were great new solutions coming to the HVAC&R market that used natural refrigerants, but many companies were struggling to promote what they were doing. They were fighting an uphill battle against the synthetic solutions that dominated the market.
So, it was largely about raising awareness to start with, just getting the message out that there are better alternatives and here is where you can find them. That's when we started R744.com, which has been visited millions of times over the years.
Since then, we’ve produced thousands and thousands of articles about natural refrigerant-based systems and products and it’s become a reference point for CO2, as well as hydrocarbons and ammonia.
We then thought, let's organize an event to bring all these decision makers together – policy makers, manufacturers, end users, and so forth – to discuss how we can accelerate the transition to natural refrigerants. We've done 73 ATMOsphere conferences around the world over the last 15 years. There are thousands of people that have come together at our conferences, they’ve made business connections, found customers, found suppliers, found partners. It’s great to see the industry growing right here.
We’re proud to have helped accelerate the transition to a more sustainable industry.
RI: Good. Please share what the key highlights of this event are and how it differs from the previous ones.
Marc Chasserot:I mean, this particular event we're hosting in Brussels – the capital of Europe – comes at a time when there are a lot of important political decisions being made that will have significant impact in our industry and beyond. There is the EU F-gas Regulation, which is in the final stages of being updated for a second time, and there is also the PFAS restriction proposal being discussed in Parliament.
MEP Bas Eickhout, who is the rapporteur for the EU F-gas Regulation in Parliament, joined us at ATMO Europe 2023 to update conference attendees on revisions to the regulation. He couldn’t share too much because he's still in the negotiation room with all the member states and the Commission, but he provided some valuable insights and stimulated some engaging discussions.
And we also had Jutta Paulus, another MEP, who is following the PFAS issue very closely in the European Parliament. She’s very knowledgeable about the challenge that we’re facing with all these forever chemicals and what we need to do. It was great to have these two key politicians speaking on our panels.
Previously, ATMOsphere conferences have been very focused on the refrigeration side of the industry, which is where the majority of the development has been over the last 10 to 15 years. But this year, there has been a big focus on heat pumps because that's where we see a lot of opportunities across residential, commercial and industrial applications. Heat pumps have been a real ‘hot topic’ at this year’s conference – pardon the pun.
Another highlight of ATMO Europe 2023 has been the discussions around transport applications – from air conditioning in cars, trains and buses to refrigeration in delivery trucks. There are so many new opportunities and applications for natural refrigerants in this sector.
So, for me, the big highlights this year have been the politicians and the diversity of applications.
RI: Thanks. The main question today is: Do you believe that the refrigeration industry can transition exclusively to natural refrigerants without the use of any chemical refrigerants?
Marc Chasserot: So, I know that in some parts of the industry this will been seen as quite a radical statement, but from a technology point of view, absolutely, we can do everything with natural refrigerants today. It is possible. There are so many companies across the industry that are proof of that.
Now, it's all about scaling up solutions to help bring costs down, and crucially, making sure we have the right people to install and maintain the systems. That's where the bottlenecks are. There are definitely still some challenges to make sure you've got the people that are properly trained on how to maintain, optimize and run systems safely and efficiently. But the technology is there.
For cost, as soon as you have enough volume and enough competition, the price goes down and these technologies become more affordable. A key step will also be to adopt the polluter pays principle here and tax HFCs and HFOs to price them out of the market. More and more people will see that synthetic refrigerants are not the right solution and then that will make natural refrigerants even more competitive.
In the end, as an end user, you just want a system that operates well and efficiently for many years and a system that is not harming the environment or the people using it. Natural refrigerants tick all the boxes, synthetics don’t. To put it simply, if you are investing in synthetic solutions, you're kind of shooting yourself in the foot because you’re investing in systems that will be banned at one point or another. Natural refrigerants are the only long-term solution.
RI: Thanks for your insight and for your time!