It was reported at the IOR Technical Committee this month that after seven years of discussion and debate the process for the updating of EN378 is nearly complete.
This length of time might seem difficult to defend in a time when refrigerant requirements are changing very rapidly, but the task has been complex and required the balancing of numerous competing requests for change (or in some cases no change). It is difficult to see how the process could be significantly shortened without thoroughly exploring the technical implications of all viewpoints.
Too complicated and stringent?
The current version might be considered by some to be still too complicated and not 100% suitable for all circumstances. In particular the increased use of flammable refrigerants, whether they are class A3 hydrocarbons or class A2L HFOs, is likely to lead to a need for further refinements to the standard as “real-world” experience of implementation is gained over the next few years. In some cases some may call for the most stringent guidelines to be relaxed or simplified and in other ways it may be necessary to tighten up some requirements.
No doubt over time we can expect to see extension of strategies currently only permitted “for human comfort” to other systems and a general rationalisation of the requirements. In particular the wider use of A2Ls in supermarkets, chillers and other small to medium-sized systems will lead to further work by the International drafting teams to make the standard is easy to use while still ensuring high safety levels.
Will it mean system design changes?
The way in which companies do their system design will not fundamentally change with this revision of EN378 however. If designers choose to use mildly flammable refrigerants they must still follow all of the legal and safety standard requirements associated with flammability. This goes beyond the scope of EN378, which is not harmonized with those regulations. It does not mean that all electrical equipment needs to be “flameproof” of the type found in petrochemical plant, but it does mean that if the safety data sheet for the refrigerant has the hazard phrase H220 or H221 then a risk assessment conforming to the requirements of DSEAR must be completed and must cover maintenance and service activity as well as normal operation and standstill.
A guidance note on the use of DSEAR for ammonia systems is being prepared by the Food Storage and Distribution Federation with input from the IOR, and a version of this for hydrocarbon and possibly for HFO refrigerants may be called for in the future.
The main issues that designers may find with this revision of the European safety standard do not lie with the text of the standard itself, but in the other regulations which will apply if companies are encouraged by the introduction of the new flammability class to adopt the new “lower flammability” refrigerants. This does not make their use impossible, but it is an extra layer of difficulty to be overcome.
Find out more
Those interested in finding out more about changes in the proposed new standard can attend a more detailed talk being given by the IOR Technical Committee Chairman, Andy Pearson, as part of the IOR Annual Conference on 18th February 2016
in Birmingham. The revised standard itself is still going through an international approvals process and at the earliest is expected to be available for use in spring 2016.