Why the F-Gas revisions put reclaimed refrigerant centre stage


13 December 2023
A-Gas is now authorised to process and return to the market reclaimed R-448A and R-449A

A-Gas Managing Director John Ormerod considers how the latest revisions to the F-Gas Regulation could affect the UK and further afield.

The cat is finally out of the bag on F-Gas. After months of discussion in Europe a picture is emerging of what might lie ahead for our industry. European regulators have spent many months grappling with the competing need to reduce the climate impact of refrigerants while supporting the decarbonisation of heating through the roll-out of heat pumps.

Following Brexit, the F-Gas Regulation remains in force as a carbon copy of the existing EU regulation. While DEFRA is carrying out its own independent review of the F-Gas Regulation, the revision in Europe is being closely watched for clues to what DEFRA might include in its revision.

Changes in the way our industry operates will continue to happen in the immediate years ahead as the F-Gas Regulation revisions take effect. Reports suggest that it is now clearer than ever that the use of reclaimed or recycled refrigerants will grow in importance as the phase down of fluorinated greenhouse gases gathers pace.  

More of the same

Among the F-Gas revisions to emerge from the European Council, reports suggest starting in 2027 a full ban on the use of F-gases with a GWP of more than 150 in small (under 12kW) monobloc heat pumps and air conditioning systems, and a complete phase out in 2032. 

In the case of split air conditioning and heat pumps, the agreement is thought to include a full F-Gas ban starting in 2035, with earlier deadlines for certain types of split systems with higher GWPs. In both cases, an exemption will apply if building codes preclude the use of so-called natural refrigerants for safety reasons.

Broadly speaking, as a supplier of lifecycle refrigerant management services, the revised F-Gas regulation is more of what we have seen before with the push down the GWP curve through a mix of quota reduction steps and product bans, and in doing so encouraging reclamation and recycling of refrigerants along the way. Although, it does appear that the phase down steps will be more aggressive than we originally suspected; and that in turn could put more pressure on the supply of virgin refrigerants.

This will drive the use of reclaimed refrigerants to help balance supply and demand. The industry has always adapted well to periods of tightness in the supply of refrigerants mainly through reducing leakage rates and recycling gases. So I am confident that the industry can cope with these changes and innovate to deal with what’s likely to happen down the line. 
A-Gas is in a good position to build on the circularity of refrigerants. We have continued to invest in our infrastructure in Europe and the UK to ensure that we are ahead of the curve to allow us to produce more reclaimed refrigerants to fill the gaps in supply. This will also allow us to expand the life of some refrigerants where equipment has a lot of life left in it. 
It has always been unwise to retire perfectly usable equipment early on the basis that as an end user you are unable to obtain the refrigerant necessary to keep it going. This is where reclaimed refrigerants play a valuable role in the mix. 

Effective lifecycle

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Highlighting how reclaimed gases will play a key part in these changes is the news of the agreement that A-Gas has signed with refrigerant manufacturer Chemours. The company has announced a pilot programme to allow selected partners to reclaim two patent protected refrigerant blends and I’m pleased to announce that A-Gas is now authorised in Europe and the UK to process and return to the market reclaimed R-448A and R-449A.

R-448A and R-449A are refrigerants widely used in the commercial sector and viewed as go-to alternatives to high GWP gases. These interims will be much needed before the industry fully adopts low GWP alternatives.

We are delighted to support Chemours and the users of these refrigerants in creating an effective lifecycle refrigerant management solution by ensuring that the reclaimed refrigerant matches the equivalent specification and performance of virgin gas.

A-Gas keeps a close eye on developments in our changing industry

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 difference when it matters. The ease with which refrigerants are removed is made possible by the mobile A-Gas Rapid Recovery unit.
Refrigerant sent to A-Gas reprocessing centres becomes fully reclaimed product and is returned to the market in line with the AHRI 700 standard. A-Gas Rapid Recovery is an excellent example of the Circular Economy at work – the opposite to the take, make and dispose business model – and this forces us to seek greater efficiencies and make better use of what we have already.

Europe setting the pace

For maintenance work or for the renewal of installations, A-Gas Rapid Recovery adds value for the customer in the recovery and disposal of refrigerants. The experienced A-Gas Rapid Recovery teams work with state-of-the-art technology to ensure a fast and efficient solution.

Under the likely revisions to the F-Gas Regulation there is no limit to the life of reclaimed gases and this is why they will become such a valuable resource. A-Gas is proud to support industry partners and customers on their journey towards net-zero and has pledged to reduce its own emissions by 50 per cent by 2028 and by 2035 will be a net-zero company.
Industry-wise looking from a worldwide perspective Europe is setting the pace in the fight against global warming. The UK is a little behind our European counterparts but on the plus side we have always had high recovery rates of refrigerant. The US is keeping a close eye on what’s happening across the pond and has similar ambitions to its European counterparts in following the low GWP curve. 

My message to engineers is that these revisions to the F-Gas Regulation are likely to bring more of the same. There will be no big changes in the way you work but I would advise that you look to reclaimed gases where you can and in turn become trained formally in the application of natural refrigerants.