A-Gas Managing Director John Ormerod makes his predictions for the air conditioning and refrigeration industry over the next 12 months.
1 What should installers and end users be aware of F-Gas wise?
There will be a 37 per cent cut in the production of virgin high GWP refrigerants during 2018. This means there will be a reduction in the amount of refrigerant available on the market and clearly this is going to have a massive impact on installers and end users. High GWP refrigerants like R404A or R507C which contractors would automatically buy off the shelf will become increasingly difficult to get hold of. So if you haven’t done so already, now is the time to make a plan and switch to a low GWP refrigerant.
R448A (Solstice®N40), a non-flammable HFO blend, used as a replacement for R404A in low and medium temperature refrigeration applications is one to keep an eye on. It provides an excellent combination of low GWP and high-energy efficiency as well as offering reduced compressor discharge temperature at medium and low temperature conditions.
3 Which other gas is likely to be a good performer?
Another one to watch is R449A (Opteon® XP40), a GWP HFO blend, used as a replacement for R404A and R507 in low and medium temperature refrigeration applications. R449A is suitable for new installations as well as retrofits of existing equipment. Its low GWP of 1397 gives it great energy efficiency and environmental properties.
4 Will ultra-low GWP gases be making their mark?
I expect to see a growth in ultra-low GWP refrigerants and there are some which have values below 250. These may involve contractors extending their learning curve in how they work with them – especially those gases that fit into the A2L mildly-flammable category – but one of the benefits is that in some instances equipment will be able to take much higher charge sizes than would be allowed with natural refrigerants like propane.
5 What do you see as the other major challenge facing the industry?
The uncertainty brought about by Brexit will have an impact on the economy from a confidence perspective. I have heard that some projects have already been put on hold pending clarity on what is going to happen. This is going to weigh heavily on the industry and the economy in general.
6 To what extent will reclamation have a key role to play in 2018?
The 37 per cent stepdown in the production/import of virgin refrigerants means that reclamation will grow in importance. A reduction of this size is going to be hard for the industry to swallow and adapt to as swiftly as it would like. Reclamation has a key role to play because refrigerant which is cleaned and returned to the supply chain will become an increasingly important part of the supply mix. This goes beyond gases like R404A but also affects many other common refrigerants like R407C and R134a.
7 Is the industry aware of the importance of reclamation?
It is certainly coming to the forefront of everybody’s minds as refrigerant prices have risen strongly. A-Gas has the technology to ensure that recovered refrigerants are returned to the supply chain ready to use in tip-top condition. This highlights our commitment to providing the industry with the capacity and infrastructure to support the F-Gas phasedown.
8 How will natural refrigerants make a difference in the year ahead?
Natural refrigerants have been on the agenda for a number of years and there are players in the market who want to get away from the traditional fluorinated gases. In some cases natural refrigerants can be the right solution, particularly with large supermarket installations. Sainsbury’s has been open in declaring that this is the road they wish to follow for all new stores by choosing CO2. For systems on a smaller scale, naturals are finding a role with integral cabinets where they perform well. Naturals with low GWP and good thermodynamic properties can in the right circumstances be fantastic refrigerants.
9 Will there be further rises in refrigerant prices in 2018?
That’s the million dollar question. Given that 37 per cent of the virgin refrigerant supply is being removed from the market, I cannot see how this is not going to have an influence on the supply and demand balance.
10 What’s the next breakthrough that will emerge refrigerant wise?
The advent of the low GWP A2L refrigerants can make a real difference from my point of view. When in the right circumstances they can be deployed this will give end users a great deal of breathing room as far as the F-Gas Regulations are concerned. The GWP is so low that you can use large quantities of these refrigerants and not be affected by the pressure of the quota system. This is an area we are watching closely at A-Gas. We are encouraging businesses to try out some of these new refrigerants, gain experience of using them and ultimately understand how they perform.