Refrigerant predictions

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Published: 10 January 2019


Brent Hall, group technical manager at ICS Cool Energy, reflects on the challenges and successes of the previous year and what lies ahead for the temperature control industry in 2019.
 
2018 was a somewhat challenging year for the sector, with the need to build on the growth of recent years, whilst at the same time educating customers on the importance of improving refrigerant containment and energy efficiency to put sustainability ahead of economic constraints.
We entered the year anticipating a continued refrigerant price escalation as well as some severe shortages due to the F-Gas phase down’s second major reduction (down to 63% of the pre-2015 average totals). However, while there was an initial spike, prices tended to stabilise, and some fell back, although not all the way to pre-2015 levels. What’s more, despite the quota drop, there was no shortage of mainstream gases.
In the main, industry responded well to these challenges, particularly the transition to a cleaner and more efficient regime when procuring and applying cooling products.
When it comes to refrigerants, I expect that 2019 will follow a similar direction to 2018, but with a potential shortage of the more popular HFCs due to pre-2018 stockpiles running down. It is also likely that global HFC production will be reduced to balance the A2 (non-A5) countries beginning their HFC phase down with a 10% reduction at the beginning of the year. I also think there will be increased market pressure for lower GWP refrigerants and a demand for clearer guidance relating to safe, long-term R410A alternative options.
 
Whilst the commercial sector seems to be successfully embracing Co2 and other natural refrigerants in place of high GWP HFC’s, the HVAC and process sectors are still overwhelmingly dependent on R410A (2088 GWP), for which there are few safe (A1), readily available and long-term alternatives. The current options available are R513 (A1) (631 GWP) and a handful of A2L refrigerants with varying GWP figures in the “Low” and “Very Low” regions. As much of this sector’s equipment is often sited on, in or adjacent to occupied residential and commercial buildings, there is a reluctance to change to an A2L or A3 refrigerant, nor is there any appetite to choose only a short-term alternative.
 
Ultimately, there will always be challenges to overcome and I’m sure the next 12 months will be no different. As manufacturers, we must take on the responsibility and challenge of leading our customers in a safe and efficient direction when it comes to the use of refrigerants, while awaiting the introduction of suitable, long-term alternatives to R410A.
 
www.icscoolenergy.com