EPA Continues to Tweak HCFC Process

Phaseout of HCFCs such as R-22 continues, but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also continues to tweak and fine-tune certain aspects of the process.

The agency held a one-half-day summit of sorts for who it called stakeholders in the phaseout. So that brought manufacturers and trade associations effected by refrigerant changes to Washington, D.C. on June 16 to hear what’s planned and offer input before a final ruling.

The objective of cutting back HCFC production by 75 percent in 2010 from the baseline year of 1996 remains on track. (The current production cutback from the baseline is 35 percent.) A 90 percent phase down remains earmarked for 2015 with a 99.5 percent phase down by 2020.

The issues, based on the presentation at the stakeholder meeting, relate to fine-tuning the so-called service tail of HCFCs that might still be allowed in the market from 2020 to the 100 percent elimination in 2030, what HCFCs might be produced in what amounts during the phase-down period, and reclamation efforts.

According to documents provided attendees by the EPA, the agency is looking at the so-called service tail and “estimating the projected amount of units of equipment using HCFCs beyond 2010 and HCFCs needed to service equipment beyond 2010.”

This ties in with the fact that R-22, the most commonly used refrigerant in HVACR, may have to share remaining allocations with such HCFCs as 123, 124, 142b, and 225ca/cb. The impression from those attending the meeting was that R-22 would be by far the most produced refrigerant.

But this does not mitigate a continued concern on the part of the EPA over the lack of what it considers adequate reclamation efforts.

Based on R-22 production phase downs and current reclamation efforts, “In 2015, R-22 needs will exceed the 2015 cap by more than 10,000 metric tons,” according to the EPA. The presentation again stressed a common theme in the industry: “Recovery and reuse are needed to provide room under the cap and meet demand for all HCFCs.”

Another issue raised during the meeting related to which manufacturers and how many manufacturers would be allowed to produce HCFCs for domestic use. Such factors as historical allocations and past sales might be considered - perhaps an open auction system.

Several persons attending the meeting did not think the allocation aspect related to manufacturers would directly affect contractors as the industry pipeline, such as through supply houses, would continue to make as much virgin refrigerant as allowed available to contractors.

A more formal ruling on such matters is expected later in 2008, according to the EPA. A final ruling is expected to be released in 2009, it was reported.

Publication date: 07/07/2008

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