A-Gas managing director John Ormerod reports that the industry is in a good place as it prepares for the Chillventa 2018 exhibition in Germany.
There’s been a remarkable change in the refrigeration and air conditioning industry in the past 18 months. With the industry working together, end-users, contractors, and suppliers like ourselves have shown that you can move the mountain quickly.
The price of R404A did rise steeply during the latter part of 2017 but it has now levelled out and there are plentiful supplies of the widely-used legacy gas. The fact that large sections of the industry are moving to low GWP refrigerants has also eased the pressure on the availability and price of high GWP products. This will continue to add further stability to the market.
At A-Gas our investment in recycling equipment is paying off. There is a much greater flow of reclaimed R404A coming through and this is now a significant part of the supply chain. Price levels in Europe have yet to respond as quickly as they have in the UK but I suspect that this is because some suppliers are still sitting on stock at high prices.
Supermarkets and store chains have responded well and are making the switch to low GWP refrigerants, although there is still much to do on this front. The F-Gas programme has forced sectors of the industry to come together that would not normally have been natural partners. We have had conversations at new levels in the value chain and this had led to change and new technologies making an impact on their business.
The supermarkets have recognised that to make the switch to low GWP gases they need the support of key players across the refrigeration industry. This has given us the opportunity to build partnerships to ensure that we go forward together. This has also driven a great deal of creative thinking across the industry as we have looked to meet the challenges presented by the F-Gas stepdowns. New ways of working have been developed and new products released on to the market.
Most of the major supermarkets now have refrigerant retrofit programmes in place over the next few years. The success of the Rapid Recovery arm of A-Gas, launched last year, highlights how supermarkets are changing the way they operate. Rapid Recovery is a quick and easy way to recover refrigerant and has speeded up the way we handle the job. It was tested recently when called upon to play a key role in a large-scale refrigerant retrofit involving 114 Asda convenience stores. It was completed on time and with minimum disruption to the customer.
A noticeable aspect of this was the fact that stores operated as normal while the work was taking place. Refrigerated cabinets did not need to be demerchandised. This is an example of how the F-Gas stepdowns are driving the industry and the supermarkets to greater efficiencies and new ways of working.
This is not the time to rest on our laurels but as an industry we can look forward to Europe’s major refrigeration exhibition Chillventa in good spirits. When compared with the rest of Europe the UK is making great progress. Major users are switching to low GWP refrigerants and have responded well to the message that standing still is not an option.
We are recovering larger amounts of refrigerant to clean up and return to the market. We have extended our capacity at Portbury to handle this by introducing larger tanks. Contractors and end-users are taking on board the message that we have to re-use much of what we have to avoid the prospect of shortages.
Rapid Recovery is a good example of how technologies are advancing to handle this work and forcing the pace of change on the industry. We will launch Rapid Recovery across Europe in the next six months as we look to take advantage of the progress made in the UK and share these advances with other countries. I am confident that the success of Rapid Recovery in the UK points to the fact that it will be welcomed in Continental Europe too.
The challenges will be the same and so will be the refrigerants recovered. Once again we will be working with big users of refrigerants to make this happen. The message to our UK and European customers is to be conscious of the phasedowns and keep switching to new low GWP refrigerants. At the exhibition in Germany, A-Gas will be unveiling its award-winning Rapid Recovery service to customers in Europe and showcasing the latest low GWP refrigerants available.
- Visit A-Gas at Chillventa (hall 7, stand 104).