Mitigating emissions from refrigerated transport

Project description

Title: Emission mitigation in the transport refrigeration sector through the introduction of innovative logistics and supply structures in South Africa
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB)
Country: South Africa
Lead executing agency: Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)
Overall term: 2012 to 2017


South Africa’s economy depends largely on agriculture and trade – two sectors in which transport plays a vital role. The transport and distribution of refrigerated goods plays a significant part in the greenhouse gas emissions produced by cold chains. Refrigeration units and truck engines consume fuel and therefore create emissions in the form of CO2. Moreover, the refrigerants contained in the roughly 14,000 trucks and trailers used in this sector in South Africa also contribute to global warming. Hydrofluorocarbons are currently the most commonly used refrigerants. Unlike chlorofluorocarbons, they do not deplete the ozone layer. They do, however, contribute substantially to greenhouse gas emissions.

It is estimated that, in a business-as-usual scenario, emissions in the transport refrigeration sector in South Africa will increase from the current two million tonnes of CO2 equivalent, to over five million tonnes by 2020.


Emissions harmful to the climate are mitigated in the transport refrigeration sector, thanks to a change to natural refrigerants, a reduction in the energy consumption of refrigerated vehicles, and optimised operational procedures.


The project is supporting the South African Department of Trade and Industry in its efforts to encourage the sustainable development of the transport refrigeration sector. In close cooperation with major stakeholders in South Africa, and with support from the HEAT consulting company, the project has formulated recommendations for measures to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Following discussions with the stakeholders, these recommendations now being implemented in pilot measures.


The project has established a steering committee comprised of officials from the South African Government (representatives of the Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Environmental Affairs and Department of Transport) and industry representatives. The steering committee supports the implementation of the project activities:

  • Establishing a test chamber and developing a testing standard in South Africa. Test chambers are used in many countries to verify the insulation capacity of refrigerated vehicles as well as the performance of refrigeration units based on standardised tests. By establishing such a test chamber with support from the consultancy Cemafroid, the thermal efficiency of refrigerated vehicles in South Africa can be tested for the first time and specifically targeted for optimisation.
  • Improving the insulation of refrigerated vehicles and introducing a certification system. Here, the aim is to support South African vehicle manufacturers through knowledge transfer, in order to assist them in developing and producing new vehicles to meet the requirements of future national standards. The development of a certification and auditing scheme will address the current quality fluctuations.
  • Developing a transport refrigeration system using natural refrigerants. In cooperation with the only South African manufacturer of transport refrigeration systems, a prototype that runs on propanehas been developed, as well as a comprehensive safety strategy for this particular field of application. A field test is being carried out until early 2017.
  • Training courses on transport refrigeration technology and cold chain logistics. To support the introduction of new technologies, training materials are being developed which are used use in regional workshops with relevant stakeholders in government and industry.

Additional information