SuperCool’s Secret Role in Refrigerant Retrofitting

How covert tests in our Gold Coast workshop helped a global environmental innovation

R12Just over 30 years ago, SuperCool announced that R134a refrigerant could be simply and reliably retrofitted in motor cars operating with R12 refrigerant, heavily reducing CFC emissions.

SuperCool’s Southport workshop was the first in Australia to trial the replacement of old CFC units with the newly developed R134a, and SuperCool Group’s Managing Director, Mark Mitchell, shares how he undertook a series of covert trials for some of the world’s leading manufacturers.

“In 1992 SuperCool and Unicla were asked by a major refrigerant manufacturer and two lubricant manufacturers – ICI and Castrol – to conduct secret trials. These trials would help answer the two questions remaining in everyone’s mind at the time. One, could R12 cars be retrofitted to R134a by changing only the lubricant and not the hoses and expansion valves? Second, which family of oil species (PAG or POE) would be best suited to the task?”
Mark Mitchell
Mark Mitchell

New Workshop At 51 High Street Southport 2

By the end of 1993, Mark and his team at SuperCool had proven that R12 cars could indeed be converted to R134a thanks to a fairly simple lubricant change using either PAG or POE oil. 

Mark notes that whilst this discovery was a real positive for the environment, the established industry players who had a stake in the outcome wanted to remain incognito until ownership of R134a and oil type manufacturing was settled.

“I was given the approval to go public about it but without mentioning their names. The refrigerant manufacturers were still battling over patent rights to R134a, hence the ‘manufacturer from USA’ statement in the original TV interview.”

“Castrol and ICI also wanted to remain anonymous due to the battles they were having with others over patent rights for PAG and POE formulas.”

“Following the success of the trials, ICI flew me to the UK to meet the team that invented the first POE68 oils. The timing for this announcement was in the same month the S Class Benz was released in Australia.”

In early nineties dollars, the cost to retrofit a vehicle’s air conditioning system with R134a was around $150 – $240, making it a relatively affordable exercise that helped to curb the widespread use of ozone-depleting CFCs. Then, from around 1993 onwards, almost every vehicle came off the production line with an R134a system.

New Workshop At 51 High Street Southport 1

Three decades on, R134a is still present in many vehicles however minimising impact on the environment is still the primary goal driving innovation in refrigerant technology. 

Lower GWP refrigerants such as R1234yf were mandated into all new air conditioning systems on cars made in the USA and Europe from 2022, and in 2013 SuperCool was asked by Chemours Australia to assist with determining the operational characteristics of Opteon 1234yf in existing systems which has proven to be highly successful.

SuperCool remains committed to advocating for better environmental outcomes both now and into the future.

“Our mission has been the same for decades: everything SuperCool does and every product it sells contributes to a better world in which food wastage is minimised, CO2 emissions are reduced, the cold chain is more efficient, and mobile air conditioning delivers cleaner air with minimum environmental damage.”
Mark Mitchell
Mark Mitchell

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