ACHRNEWS

Refrigerant, Reclamation Rumblings Overseas

March 7, 2011

Issues that could some day affect the way HVACR contractors do business continue to draw attention in both Europe and Asia. Nothing being talked about right now has any direct impact on the North American market, but the issues remain on the industry’s radar screen for what possibly could happen in the future.

The following international update is based on material that is being regularly supplied to The NEWS.



EUROPE

An organization in Europe that has long advocated so-called natural refrigerants such as CO2, ammonia, and hydrocarbons, has focused its most recent report on HFC-23, a refrigerant that has been noted to have similar properties to CFC-503 and -13 with some retrofit possibilities.

In Europe, R-23 appears to be involved in issues related to carbon offsets, China, and India.

A statement issued by the organization BeyondHFCs on Jan. 25, 2011, said in part:

“European member states have voted on banning the most common type of carbon offsets involving the industrial gas HFC-23 from the EU emissions trading scheme. While BeyondHFCs welcomes the willingness to put an end to the misuse of the HFC-23 carbon trading, we deeply regret the date of entry into force of the ban, pushed back to May 2013, opening the door to another 30 million to 40 million extra offsets to be used for environmentally doubtful projects.”

Christianna Papazahariou, head of the campaign Beyond HFCs, explained, “It is an important step towards redirecting carbon funds more meaningfully. However, giving into the industry lobby and pushing the deadline to May 2013 at the cost of the global climate is irresponsible.”

The organization said the issue arose “when mainly Chinese and Indian chemical companies started producing HCFC-22 only for the sake of receiving money to destroy its byproduct HFC-23 in the framework of the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) that offsets credits from projects which destroy industrial gases.”

It added, “However, a strong industry lobby managed to convince key countries such as Italy, Germany, France, Britain, and Poland, to push back entering into force of the ban to May 2013. Particularly some energy companies were worried that a ban from January 2013 on would make carbon offsets from 2012 invalid, as most do not submit allowances until a year later, in April 2013 in this case, which would be borderline.”

Currently for the United States market, the takeaway is that carbon credits and offsets are possibilities in the U.S. as they surface as part of legislative actions. At the same time, other legislative initiatives look at a possible long-range phasedown of HFCs.

ASIA

Meanwhile, in Asia a recent major event was the 9th International Symposium on New Refrigerants and Environmental Technology in Japan. Two reports from that event also reached The NEWS.

One came from Supermarket Online, an Internet service that originates in South Africa but disseminates information on what’s happening in supermarkets worldwide.

A Jan. 12, 2011, article stated, “In Japan, as in Europe, the future of HFCs is a big topic. While there are many parallels between these two regions, there are also new impulses in the HVACR sector coming from Japan.”

The story then quoted a presenter from the conference in Japan who happened to be the director of European Partnership for Energy and Environment (EPEE), a manufacturers’ association for the European refrigeration, air-conditioning and heat pump industries. EPEE Director General Andrea Voigt was quoted as saying, “For the revision of the F-Gas Regulation, the European Commission keeps an eye on international developments such as the North American proposal to gradually reduce the consumption of HFCs based on their GWP. However, nothing has been decided yet.

“The commission is currently analyzing the F-Gas Regulation in terms of its implementation throughout Europe and its capacity to effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Supermarket Online added, “The emissions reduction via leakage control is a No. 1 priority in Japan as well. The new Directive JRC GL-01 concerning leakage inspection and reparations presented at the symposium takes exactly the same approach as the European F-gas regulations.

“New impulses for the sector were provided, among other sources, by a study from Tokyo University comparing the environmental impact of recycling and destruction of refrigerants based on the example of R-22. The results are impressive: Refrigerant destruction including the production of new refrigerants has a 24 times greater environmental impact than recycling. Hence, it is not in the interest of the environment to simply insist on replacing HFC refrigerants. The F-Gas Regulation is, however, on the right track as it aims to reduce emissions.”

The issue of what happens to refrigerant that doesn’t come back to the market was the subject of a technical paper presented at the symposium that was referenced in the online report.

The paper was titled “LCA Comparison of Refrigerant Reclamation and Destruction Applying LIME Method.” (The LIME method is a life-cycle impact assessment method based on endpoint modeling.)

The report was from the Refrigerant Recovery Promotion Technology Center in Tokyo. In part, it stated, “As a result of comparison of environmental impact between distillation reclamation and destruction by using the LIME method, we find the environmental impact of distillation reclamation is about 1/24th of that of destruction.

“We will make efforts to advocate to the related agencies, refrigerant recovery operators, and the discarders of refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment, whenever possible, that the environmental impact of distillation reclamation is smaller than that of destruction and we will expand distillation reclamation.”

Publication date: 03/07/2011