29 June 2023
Despite the lack of clarity regarding forthcoming refrigerant bans and restrictions, A-Gas Managing Director John Ormerod highlights some good news as we look to reduce the use of virgin gases and protect the environment.
The latest proposals to revise the F-Gas Regulation in Europe are pointing to more aggressive phase-downs and accelerated equipment bans. While we don’t know if the UK will follow suit, it is important that the industry does consider the consequences.
Faster, more aggressive phase-downs will make the energy transition – leading to the widespread use of heat pumps – more difficult and this means that a compromise will be required. Heat pumps are at the heart of the vision for a low carbon future as we lay the building blocks for a more sustainable way of life.
In accelerating the F-Gas Regulation step-downs looking for a third way is crucial. With the days of fossil-fuelled domestic boilers numbered and ambitions in all sectors of the building services industry to save energy and adopt more sustainable practices, heat pumps are fundamental in getting close to the Government’s low carbon targets.
There are other factors to consider too. Experts agree that indirect emissions from electrical consumption are a greater contributor to climate change than refrigerant leaks. This means it is always important to weigh-up system performance and energy efficiency before making a decision on a refrigerant. For many this is the greater prize as we look to reduce energy consumption and make the domestic, commercial and industrial markets less reliant on high global warming potential gases.
But the importance of lifecycle refrigerant management is growing. Schemes to encourage lifecycle refrigerant management attract broad support across the EU and this highlights that there is strong recognition for the need to recover and reclaim refrigerants. Following this strategy will help balance the ambition of the F-Gas revision with the need to support heat pump growth.
At these times of uncertainty when we are looking to reduce our reliance on virgin gases, it is heartening to hear that A-Gas has reported a record year for refrigerant recovery and reclamation activity.
Adding together all the used gas that our teams have recovered, reclaimed, repurposed or destroyed across the globe during 2022, can be expressed as the equivalent of taking 1.8 million vehicles off the road for a year or planting 123 million trees – a significant increase on the A-Gas numbers for 2021 and making it the company’s best year.
The overall carbon abatement number for last year was 8,617,743 tCO2e, up more than 1.1 million tons of CO2e when compared to the 2021 figure. Across a 12-month period this is an impressive 15 per cent increase.
This is a great achievement. A-Gas has invested consistently in innovative technologies to enable our global teams to obtain used refrigerant gas from the market to process for future re-use or destruction.
The result of this is that we have captured successfully thousands of tons of refrigerant gas that may otherwise have been released into the atmosphere. By safely recovering, reclaiming or repurposing the product that is already out there we are embracing the principles of the circular economy.
This is the opposite to the take, make and dispose business model and by adopting these principles we are making better use of what we already have, avoiding the need to produce the equivalent quantity of virgin refrigerants and, at the same time, making sure that these gases are not vented or leaked into the atmosphere. Every time product is recovered the circular cycle repeats.
The recovery and reclamation of gases is a key pillar of lifecycle refrigerant management on the journey towards net-zero. It is clear that reducing leakage and recovering existing refrigerants for future re-use, or destruction, has a far greater impact on our climate than the substitution of lower global warming potential refrigerants alone.
Refrigerant sent to A-Gas reprocessing centres becomes fully reclaimed product and is returned to the market. Around the world, no kilogram of refrigerant once produced, should be allowed to go to the atmosphere. As an industry we need to do all we can to achieve this. At A-Gas we make no bones about the fact that our climate goals are ambitious but we believe there really is no alternative.
It follows that tools that make refrigerant recovery easier and quicken the process are valuable. The A-Gas Rapid Recovery, F-Gas compliant on-site recovery service, is a good example of how having the right equipment can make a real difference when it matters. The ease with which the refrigerants can be removed is made possible by the mobile A-Gas Rapid Recovery unit.
A-Gas Rapid Recovery has a network of vehicles and engineers in place to give refrigeration contractors national coverage and this is available to go on site at short notice to handle jobs of all sizes.
According to the European Environment Agency, product from reclaim sources is less than 3%. There is much more we can do to avoid large quantities of refrigerant being released into the atmosphere. Only by working together as an industry we can really make a difference to the environment.
Recovering and reclaiming refrigerants is a great example of this. By doing so, we are making sure that these gases are not vented or leaked into the atmosphere and we are also avoiding the need to produce the equivalent quantity of virgin refrigerants.
A-Gas is proud to support customers on their journey to net-zero. Our dedicated Towards Zero, Together campaign puts net zero at the top of our agenda. We are aiming to become a net-zero group of companies by 2035 with an early target of reducing baseline emissions by 50% by or before 2028.
Towards Zero, Together encompasses three key areas – our dedication to stay safe, providing superior quality to customers and protecting our environment by preventing emissions to the atmosphere. We are engaging meaningfully with our talented people, looking at our processes and seeing how they can be materially improved to become best practices. We believe that together with our customers we can lower the carbon footprint of this industry and help build a more sustainable world for us all.