Kevin Glass began his tenure as the new president of the Institute of Refrigeration by highlighting some of the challenges the industry is likely to face in a post-Brexit era.
He formally took up the position yesterday, succeeding Stephen Gill, and also used his presidential address to explore the situation with refrigerants, which he said remained at the top of the unresolved technical issues list.
“This in turn depends on the free flow of goods and services between producers, installers and end users across the continent.
“We all know the importance of speed in dealing with cooling plant breakdowns. The nation simply cannot afford the cost and disruption to vital services that would ensue if vital replacement plant was routinely quarantined at the docks awaiting processing of paperwork. If workable customs practices for trade post-Brexit can’t be agreed, there is a strong argument for special fast-track arrangements for critical equipment such as refrigeration and air conditioning plant, on grounds of national security and the economic well-being of the nation. This sounds dramatic and some outside the industry may consider it scare-mongering. However, those of us who know how important mechanical cooling is to the productivity and health of the nation have a duty to highlight this issue.
Mr Glass said there was uncertainty as to how Brexit would affect F-Gas quotas in the UK. He said: “There are various possible scenarios, and the UK government has recently issued guidance on what will happen in the event of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit. However, this still leaves considerable uncertainties around how a quota system would work, in the circumstances of both an agreed Brexit and a no-deal Brexit.
On the wider issue of refrigerants, and in the wake of a recent announcement from Honeywell regarding a “breakthrough’’ non-flammable alternative to R410A, Mr Glass said: “Top of the industry’s unresolved technical issues and challenges list remains refrigerants. I am sometimes asked if I believe there is a “silver bullet” yet to be discovered. The simple answer, of course, is no. Everyone wants a return to simplicity and a settled order in relation to refrigerants. However, of necessity we continue to navigate our way through a multiplicity of options. Just when the focus appeared to be narrowing, a new left-field option recently sprang into view and we have a new possibility on the table, and a new validation challenge.
“Whenever compounds not previously used in refrigeration and air conditioning are adopted, it inevitably involves a lot of uncertainty around materials compatibility. All that has yet to be worked through and this takes time. However, materials compatibility testing and validation have to be thorough and systematic; there really are no short cuts. Huge potential investments in plant and manufacturing infrastructure depend on it. At this stage, and subject to proper evaluation, the best that can be said is that recent developments and new formulations for refrigerants may turn out to be silver-plated bullets. It could also open the door to other, potential new options in the future. This is a promising area and has generated understandable excitement. However, time will tell if this offers a genuine new way forward.
Touching on the often unsung role of refrigeration and air conditioning in society, he said: “They are vital to modern, civilised life. Without them, and equally without the men and women who design, make, install and service cooling systems, society would be plunged back into the dark ages, when life, in that memorable phrase, was “short and brutish”. Refrigeration, and its application in air conditioning, is a great blessing for humankind. The benefits it brings in terms of economic prosperity, health and the quality of life are incalculable.’’
Mr Glass paid tribute to his predecessor, Stephen Gill, and in particular his role in helping to develop the Women in RACHP network. He said: “I am sure you will agree that Steve has brought a fresh, creative approach to his tenure over the past two years, and set in motion some positive initiatives that will benefit the Institute and the wider industry in the years to come. In particular, I would highlight formation of the Women in RACHP Group. For many years, there was a large group of industry members who didn’t feel part of the industry. Today, however, this new group is building a support network and opening up new opportunities that widen our appeal as an industry and make us more relevant to each other and society. It can only strengthen our collective endeavours as it develops in the months and years to come, and will continue to have my full support.’’
He said the industry faced further challenges in attracting the right people to take advantage of the opportunities created by the increasing amount of intelligent plant and equipment becoming available and said the IOR would continue to develop initiatives to engage with young people.
- Head of REFCOM Graeme Fox and Jacinta Caden, business development manager at Integral Refrigeration, have been elected to the IOR board of trustees.