A-Gas Managing Director John Ormerod says the industry will need to shape-up over the coming months if it’s going to stay on target for the F-Gas stepdowns
The months ahead could be challenging for the refrigeration and air conditioning industry in the UK.
This affects a wide range of products including two key areas, which are the lion’s share of the pre-charged equipment imported into the UK
- Integral refrigeration cabinets
- Split air conditioning systems
Get up to speed
Counterbalancing, this is the final implementation of the MAC Directive for motor vehicles. All new cars placed on the market in Europe will now have to have a low GWP refrigerant in their air conditioning systems but it’s unlikely that this will have a significant impact on the UK in the short term.
Rude surprises for motorists
If you consider what’s going to happen in 2018 and beyond, 2017 is a crucial year for major users of refrigerants. Those who have failed to plan for the coming refrigerant phasedowns must stop sitting on their hands and migrate away from high GWP refrigerants as the years 2018 to 2021 will be tough ones for refrigerant supply.
Reduction steps for the quota of virgin high GWP HFC refrigerants are 37 per cent in 2018 and 55 per cent in 2021 compared to the base year 2015 – and this will be taking place in an industry which is still growing.
Up until now, supplies of virgin refrigerant have been fairly plentiful and I believe that it has given a false sense of security that it is going to continue in this way. So far there has been no major shift in behaviour. What there has been is a lot of planning going on and trials of low GWP refrigerants happening but to date we have not seen many major retrofit programmes.
Regulations having a major impact
In many cases large chains have hundreds and maybe thousands of stores that need to be converted to low GWP refrigerants. Time and the number of engineers available is clearly a constraint but when you look at the bigger picture it can only be good news for contractors and sub-contractors who carry out the majority of the maintenance work for the supermarkets. Stores understand that they need to change but there is still some doubt that they have grasped the fact that time is not on their side.
As I have highlighted in previous articles, reclaimed refrigerants will continue to grow in importance as the availability of virgin refrigerant shrinks. A-Gas has invested in an additional separator at our Portbury site near Bristol and this will more than double our reclamation capacity in the UK.
Looking ahead, by December 2017 I hope that the refrigeration industry will have had significant success in dealing with the R404A challenge. EPEE has suggested in its Gapometer Project – set up to measure compliance – that supermarkets should have retrofitted 50 per cent of refrigerant packs by this date. This is clearly going to be a tough ask and I suspect that the industry will be behind the phasedown targets by the end of the year. The only way to avoid this is to make a concerted effort in the coming months to catch-up and get back on track.