With new F-Gas regulations due to enter into force next year, the phase down schedule will create a lot of pressure on the use of High GWP refrigerants.
The F-Gas regulation was approved by an overwhelming majority in the EU Parliament on 12th March and the final text of the regulation is expected to be published possibly as soon as next month, coming into force on 1st January 2015.
The over-riding regulatory messages are a very strong reinforcement that leak reduction or even elimination is a major priority, as is a move to Lower GWP refrigerants for new equipment and that days are numbered for high GWP refrigerants.
No room for high GWP refrigerant complacency
The phase down schedule will help the legislation achieve its objectives without imposing bans on specific applications too early. However, there should be no room for complacency in replacing high GWP refrigerants as the phase down schedule could be very hard hitting by 2018 if industry is too slow to change.
The first cut in the quota for 2016 and then in 2017 will test how quickly the market is moving away from high GWP refrigerants both in new and existing systems as the quantity of refrigerant in pre-charged equipment imported from outside of Europe needs to be included.
By 2018 the CO2 Equivalent Tonnes placed on the market needs to be at 63% of the 2015 baseline, increasing pressure on the high volume, high GWP refrigerants such as R404A (GWP=3922). From next year, quota holders will be able to sell 3 Tonnes of 134a (GWP=1430) for every Tonne of 404A, or approximately 2 Tonnes of R407A/C/F for every Tonne of 404A. With a limit on how much can be sold, market forces of supply and demand will come into play.
Phase down of HFCs in CO2 equivalent Tonnes compared to a baseline of 2009-2012 average.
The initial spotlight may be on refrigeration applications with R404A but air conditioning applications need to be mindful of the quota cuts in 2018 and 2021 that will mean that some new equipment may also need to be using lower GWP refrigerants than at present.
All of this could be done in an orderly and structured fashion, but 2018 could be interesting if the industry does not embrace Lower GWP refrigerants quick enough. As will all legislation the devil is in the detail and some of that detail still needs to be clarified.
There are already easy fixes for R404A applications with compressor manufacturers approving the use of R407A and R407F. Legislation allows new equipment to choose a refrigerant today with a GWP below 2500 in the knowledge that the ongoing servicing of such equipment, won’t be banned. Two HFOs, 1234ze and 1234yf are already available and producers are looking at incorporating these into lower GWP blends, which are under development and testing, whilst R32 with a GWP of 675 looks likely to appear in the next 12-18 months in small AC equipment. In addition, the use of Ammonia, CO2 and a range of secondary heat transfer fluids are growing.
There are many other aspect to the new F-Gas legislation which affect training, labelling, leak check frequencies and the sale of F-Gases, which will be covered in subsequent articles. For now the focus should on options to move from R404A to lower GWP refrigerants in an organised way.