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The inevitable future is in natural refrigerants

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Compiled by Benjamin Brits

It has been a journey of intrigue with CO2 from the start of this engineer’s career.

July 2021 personality profile sponsored by:

Born in Nelspruit, and with some relocations during his younger years, Wynand Groenewald ended up initially settling in Vanderbijlpark where he completed his secondary education at Transvalia High. He subsequently went on to study mechanical engineering at the North West University in Potchefstroom.

After completing his bachelor’s in mechanical engineering, Groenewald was left considering the next steps of his career. Perusing through some of the subjects offered by the University for a master’s degree, one of these was the study of CO₂ heat pump technology, which was in fact the first post graduate topic on CO₂ as a refrigerant in South Africa. Being intrigued by this, Groenewald decided to pursue this opportunity. This was his opening door into the sector.

With CO₂ as a refrigerant being the first subject matter for the country at the time, Groenewald was fortunate that his election of the topic afforded him attendance to various training courses and conferences worldwide to gain more information on the technology.

Whilst working through the post-graduate degree, he took up a position at M-Tech Industrial – where the company designed and manufactured heat pumps for the commercial and industrial sector. “After completing my degree, I was totally hooked on refrigeration, and particularly CO₂ as the refrigerant. Ever since, I have pursued the adoption of natural refrigerant solutions in the local and international market,” he says.

Not having much time for hobbies, Groenewald candidly concedes that having started his own business, Future Green Now, at the start of 2020, occupies most of his attention. “We are in the process of growing an international-scale consulting business which is backed by our team’s vast experience in designing, manufacturing and installing CO₂, and also other natural refrigerant options, and this of course takes significant effort,” he says.

Groenewald and his team have been fortunate to already be overwhelmed by engagement with various entities worldwide to implement the uptake of CO₂ as a refrigerant, and he is proud to be assisting these industry players to either create products using CO₂, or to support projects that elect natural refrigerants ahead of Fluorinated options. “We are also continuously able to learn by having the opportunity to work with many product developers, OEMs and contractors,” he says.

Considering his most significant achievement to-date, Groenewald notes that there are a number of individual achievements so far that he can point out, however, “Together these form what I consider to be my greatest achievement – the introduction of various first-of-their-kind CO₂ refrigeration solutions into South Africa. This ranges from retail to industrial solutions, heat pumps to chillers. Further what makes me proud is to have had, and continue to have, the opportunity to represent South Africa in the global arena and play a part in making South Africa one of the world leaders in adopting natural refrigerants.”

Looking forward Groenewald is confident the refrigeration sector will see a quick shift, and that this transition is inevitable. CO₂, NH3, Hydrocarbons, water and air all are tried and tested technologies that can cater to every heating and cooling requirement that you can think of. He further stresses the need to ensure sufficient support for natural refrigerants through training and innovation as these options are not as far off as most people may think.

“Globally, the shift to natural refrigerants is happening at a very fast pace and it is in the best interest of everyone involved in the refrigeration industry to be skilled and capable of supporting these natural solutions to avoid being left behind,” he concludes.