In moving to R1234yf MCI is effectively ending its support for propane as a next generation refrigerant for reefer containers in the near future. MCI began work with propane (R290) as its next generation natural refrigerant for reefer containers in 2012. Working with Holger König, of Ref-Tech Engineering, MCI determined the hydrocarbons propane and propylene scored highly for energy usage and efficiency while having a low GWP, and developed a prototype reefer.
MCI is now advocating for R1234yf, the refrigerant that is used in more than 50 million passenger cars globally today. R1234yf is an A2 refrigerant, putting it between the non-flammable A1 refrigerants used to day and the A3 category. MCI notes work is underway now that will allow R1234yf to be used by the end of 2019.
With regard to cost, R1234yf is, according to MCI, about 10 times more expensive than R1234a currently. However, MCI expects the price to fall significantly from 2025 when patents held by two companies expire.
MCI’s move changes the landscape on refrigerants in the reefer container industry considerably. With propane now effectively off the table, it is only Carrier that is promoting a new, natural refrigerant platform as the “end state” for low-GWP compliance. Carrier is gaining some traction with its NaturaLINE reefer machine, but it is still the only supplier offering CO2.
Daikin, which manufactures CO2 machinery for other industries, is also working on using R1234yf in reefer containers, including in a blend with R32, while maintaining that CO2 is not the best option for the reefer industry.