It is not a traditional technology used in China, since the wide range of applications first appeared in other countries. Japanese companies such as Mitsubishi Electric and Sanyo started to apply rotary compressors for refrigeration applications in around the 1980s. By this measure the penetration of this technology in China started relatively late.
With the rapid growth of the Chinese economy, consumer demand for frozen food has seen strong growth, which drives the development of the refrigeration equipment market. To date, rotary compressors have been used mainly for small refrigeration equipment, such as commercial freezers in the retail industry and small cold storage in farm production. This is due to the limitation of the cooling capacity of rotary compressors. In China, Chinese manufacturers dominate the market of rotary compressors. It is reported that the maximum output of rotary compressors used for refrigeration applications is 5 HP in 2019. Nevertheless, it can reach 7 or 8 HP in China and capacities are expected to increase in the future.
There are some advantages to use rotary compressors in the refrigeration field. Firstly, the Chinese annual production of rotary compressors for air conditioning applications has exceeded 200 million units. As a result, the price of rotary compressors is more competitive than that of other types with the same cooling capacity. Secondly, the displacement of rotary compressors is relatively high and R22 and R404a refrigerants have high cooling capacities. Therefore, using R22 or R404a as a refrigerant in rotary compressors can provide maximum cooling capacity with the smallest compressor sizes. For small refrigeration equipment, R22 or R404a allows the reduction of the size of the compressor to the minimum, resulting in a more compact condensing unit which occupies smaller space. This is extremely valuable, especially as the rent for retail space is very high in China. R290 refrigerant also offers good future potential for rotary compressors for refrigeration applications with the development of inverter technology in the future, due to the combination of good performance and lower cost.
The market for rotary compressors in air conditioning applications has become relatively mature and every manufacturer is striving to find new market opportunities. However, in recent years, the Chinese cold-chain logistics sector enjoyed yearly double-digit growth as a result of demand and policies.
In contrast, the market for rotary compressors for refrigeration applications is an emerging market segment, which has started to be explored by various manufacturers. The market shows great potential with the improvements in technology, promotion of product applications and the rise of customer awareness. BSRIA expects the market to reach levels in excess of 800,000 units by 2023.