All Is Almost Calm In Refrigerant Sector

February 11, 2003
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CHICAGO — The refrigerant sector at the 2003 Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Exposition (AHR Expo) was a fairly quiet one — always good news for contractors who used to have to deal with endless new waves of regulations and an ever-increasing number of refrigerants and oils.

But the most recent show did have a few twists and turns designed to keep things from getting too dull.

Conversations on the show floor focused on a recent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ruling seen by many as curbing secondary sources of HCFCs from off shore and motivating contractors to stick with established, mainstream supply chains for refrigerants. And while the future of HFCs still seemed secure, there was yet another round of scattered rumblings from Europe casting a bit of doubt over HFC’s long-term viability.

The EPA’s final rule was detailed in an industry update made available at the DuPont (Wilmington, Del.) booth. It outlined allowances to individual companies for production, import, or export of HCFC-22 and HCFC-142b, based on baseline years of 1994 through 1997. Virtually all of the well-known, established refrigerant manufacturers have indicated that those allocations combined with the phaseout this year of HCFC-141b (used in foam insulation) should allow for adequate supplies of R-22 for customers for a number of years to come.

Expected to be caught on the short end will be sources of R-22 that arose in the past few years, especially those from India and China.

The focus on the show floor concerning HFCs centered on Germany. As noted at the booth of Bitzer (Sindelfingen, Germany), the issue concerned the Ministry of Environment developing a discussion paper on the future of HFCs. Formal comments have been submitted so far from some 80 interested parties, including major manufacturers and associations within that country’s HVACR industry, with those in the industry all supporting the long-term viability of HFCs.

A decision may be some time in coming, according to those on the expo floor knowledgeable of developments. Any position of the Ministry of Environment has to go through the German Parliament, and the European Union may also want to offer some input. Many predict that there may be some restrictions or limits on use of HFCs, but not a full-scale, forced phaseout.

On the show floor, manufacturers were maintaining their presence and reinforcing the availability of a now familiar range of refrigerants.

Appliance Care Products showed R-414A, a replacement for R-12 that is the same blend as the more familiar R-414B, but with slightly different percentages of the refrigerants in the blend.

Bluestar Refrigerant Co. was part of a number of Chinese companies at the expo. The company is offering supplies of R-134a to the U.S. market.

Calorie of France drew attention to R-417A, which it packages as Isceon 59 (and ICOR International labels NU-22). The product is an HFC said to work in retrofit of R-22 systems without the need to switch from a mineral oil to a POE.

In addition to its guidance on the EPA final rule, DuPont provided literature on special handling of R-410A, frequently asked questions about R-407C and R-410A, and a performance test comparison on alternatives to R-22.

Harp International from South Wales noted its ability to provide R-408A, -409A, and -413A.

Honeywell (Morristown, N.J.) also had a focus on R-409A. Its Genetron 409A replaces R-12 in most equipment without requiring the technician to change the lubricant, the company said. It is approved for use by major compressor and equipment manufacturers. The HCFC-based product contains no fluorocarbons. The company said the refrigerant has more cooling capacity than R-12.

ICOR International’s (Indianapolis) Hot Shot R-414B refrigerant can replace R-12, -134a, and

-500, according to the company. It is a patented blend said to duplicate R-12’s operating characteristics. It is UL classified A1/A1 and is said to be up to 8 percent more efficient than R-12 and up to 20 percent more efficient than R-134a.

Refrigerant Services (Dartmouth, Nova Scotia) offered a variety of refrigerants including RS-44, a non-ozone depleting replacement refrigerant for new and existing R-22 systems. This product is suitable for low-, medium-, and high-temperature applications in refrigeration and air conditioning systems, said the company. RS-44 is nonflammable and low in toxicity and closely matches the pressures and performance of R-22, the company said.

“The discharge temperature of RS-44 is considerably lower than that of R-22,” the company states. “This can reduce oil decomposition at high ambient conditions and allow operation at higher compression ratios.” The product was introduced in Canada last year. It is a mixture of R-125, -134a, and about 2 percent butane and isopentane. It has yet to receive an ASHRAE designation, but booth officials said it is similar to R-417A with slightly different percentages of the same refrigerants blended into 417A.

National Refrigerants (Philadelphia) reported on the fact that the National Lubricants and National Chemicals names would be brought under the National Refrigerants umbrella.

Refron (Long Island City, N.Y.) offers a variety of refrigerant gases. A recovery/reclaim program ensures a steady supply of refrigerants. An interactive Web site features the ability to view open invoices, past purchases, and account summaries, retrieve MSDS, and more.

Uniqema (New Castle, Del.) used the expo to announce a way to help contractors and distributors wade through the large number of refrigerant lubricants.

A Web site (www.emkarateRL.com) launched in mid-February “supplies the information and expertise that make it possible for … professionals to take advantage of all the benefits synthetic lubricant technology has to offer.”

It includes a searchable database that selects a lubricant based on application, system type, and OEM specifications. There is also a frequently asked question section dealing with lubricant handling, installation, recycling, and more. There are also links to refrigerant suppliers, compressor manufacturers, and service industry technicians.

A1A Ammonia1Additive (Orlando, Fla.) promoted LiquidCold™, a synthetic additive designed “to aggressively strip away the layers of residual buildup that reduce performance and efficiency,” according to the company. “The bonded molecules create a single layer coating to the interior surfaces of the cooling system and blend with compressor oils to increase lubricity and heat transfer capability.”

Highside Chemicals’ (Gulfport, Miss.) Acid Neutralizer is designed to chemically neutralize and prevent the formation of acids in systems due to refrigerant and refrigerant oil breakdown, moisture, and compressor burnout. It is said to be compatible with all lubricants and leaves no solids or other residual material.

Nu-Calgon (St. Louis) said its Rx-Acid Scavenger™ offers a convenient way to neutralize or “scavenge” acid in refrigeration and air conditioning systems after burnouts or during normal ongoing system maintenance. Normal dosage rate is 2 fluid ounces of Rx-Acid Scavenger for every 1 gallon of system oil, 50 percent less than many other acid neutralizing products. This low treat feature means less material has to be added to the system.

Clearwater Inc. (Pittsburgh) was offering an alternative to the familiar brines and glycols. The company’s product is called Enviro-Kool. The company said it was nontoxic, nonflammable and biodegradable.

ASI (Kennesaw, Ga.) featured Comstar refrigeration oils along with Matsushita compressors.

Publication date: 02/17/2003

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