Natural Refrigerant Solutions are Booming in Japan

natural refrigerant
Bryan Kilgore, ERS, for Zondits

Natural refrigerant solutions are booming in Japan. The number of transcritical CO2 systems installed in convenience stores and supermarkets has grown to over 2,400 installations – up from 190 in 2014. Japanese companies such as Panasonic, Sanden, and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries have developed and installed CO2 systems with outdoor condensing units (typically 2–20 hp), in contrast to the CO2 installations in Europe that typically consist of transcritical CO2 racks. This familiar outdoor configuration seems to perfectly lend itself to small format stores, such as convenience stores.


Japan boasts 2,400 transcritical CO2 retail installations

R744, February 14, 2017

Japanese convenience store and supermarket retailers are continuing to drive the adoption of CO2. As of February 2017, there are over 2,400 CO2 retail store installations in Japan (more than 2,300 convenience stores and 140 supermarkets). This represents a twelve-fold increase in just three years, with Japan having only 190 CO2 stores in March 2014.

Japanese convenience store (CVS) chain Lawson is leading the charge, choosing to continue their impressive rollout of CO2 stores despite the discontinuation of the government subsidy in the fiscal year 2017.

Lawson to hit 2,000 CO2 store mark by end February

Beginning in August 2014, Lawson made CO2 refrigeration the standard for the majority of its new stores. By the end of February 2017, Lawson will have 2,000 CO2 installations. It has taken a bold leadership stance, committing to a total of 2,700 CO2 stores before the end of February 2018 – despite the discontinuation of Japanese Ministry of Environment subsidies aimed at encouraging the use of natural refrigerants in the commercial sector.

The subsidy was in effect from 2014-2016, but will be discontinued at the start of the 2017 fiscal year.

Among supermarkets, AEON is the leader by far with a total of 99 supermarkets using CO2 as of February 2017. AEON boasts another 20 convenience stores using CO2 under its Ministop brand.

Top convenience stores and supermarkets

In Japan, the three largest convenience store franchise chains are 7-Eleven, Lawson, and Family Mart (including recently acquired Circle K Sunkus), collectively accounting for 2,214 CO2 store installations (out of the three chains’ total of 50,326+ CVS).

7-Eleven, which opens or remodels around 1,500 convenience stores annually, has the next largest number of CO2stores at 155. Family Mart has 59.

Among the 20,000 supermarkets in Japan, only 140 of them use CO2 . AEON has 99, Co-op Sapporo has nine, Seiyu has five, and Co-op Miyagi has four.

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