EPA Says New R-22 Supplies to End in 2020

October 6, 2008
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ORLANDO, Fla. - It looks like the spigot of new HCFC-22 will be totally shut off as of 2020. The so-called “service tail” of HCFCs from that date until 2030 apparently will not include the most widely used refrigerant in the HVACR sector.

That was the perspective of Dave Godwin, environmental engineer for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), who spoke Sept. 9 at the Food Marketing Institute Energy & Technical Services Conference. “As of 2020, only stockpiled or reclaimed supplies [of R-22] will be available,” he told supermarket engineers and suppliers.

In a brief interview with The NEWS, he said the service tail more than likely would include the HCFC-123 used in some chiller applications.

His comments clarify some of the allocation questions raised last summer during an EPA presentation on HCFC phaseouts, at which time some in attendance at the Washington conference thought the tail might consist primarily of R-22.

The mandated phaseout of HCFCs is currently at 65 percent of the baseline year of 1996. It will drop to 25 percent of the baseline in 2010, and to 10 percent in 2015. Overall, new production of HCFCs as of 2020 is to fall to 0.5 percent of 1996 levels, with that 0.5 percent making up the service tail.

Besides R-123, Godwin said it also could include R-124 used in sterilization processes, and R-225 used in solvents.

BIGGER CONCERNS

The greater concern, he told conference attendees, is that possible supply shortfalls could occur as early as 2015 for R-22. He said that “currently there is no pinch in supplies of R-22,” but “I do expect a shortage in 2015 and on into 2016.” Charts displayed by Godwin at the conference showed a better supply-demand balance beyond that, as aging R-22 equipment either goes off-line or is retrofitted with alternatives.

Several audience members commented that they don’t think there will be a supply shortfall, because rising costs of R-22 will motivate more users to stock- pile the refrigerant they already have, while also using the reclamation option.

WHO'S TO SUPPLY IT

Another HCFC issue in limbo, Godwin said, is the determination of who will be allowed to supply HCFCs starting in 2010.

Currently, 25 companies are listed as authorized by the EPA to supply refrigerants, including the major refrigerant manufacturers familiar to the HVACR industry. Technically, he acknowledged, those rights expire at the end of 2009. They have not been renewed at this point, and may not be until the summer of 2009.

The delay is partly due to the upcoming presidential election. The new administration will probably appoint a new EPA director, as well as a director of the Office of Management and Budget, who has to sign off on the process.

Many in the audience said some form of grandfathering or waivering will more than likely happen before 2010, to allow HCFCs to remain in the pipeline to supply houses and contractors.

Publication date: 10/06/2008

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