The long-expected major drop off in the production of virgin HCFC-22 this year - combined with an unexpected year-by-year phase down after that - is putting more attention on the refrigerant reclaim option than ever before. It was the talk of the recent International Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Exposition in Orlando, Fla., with a number of refrigerant manufacturers and reclaimers emphasizing the urgency of reclaiming R-22. There was a two-fold aspect to that. One involves adequate supplies for servicing existing equipment in the field. And the second relates to the fact that R-22 equipment manufactured up until Jan. 1 and placed in inventory can also continue to be installed.
The expected drop off in supplies of virgin R-22 came Jan. 1 when annual production fell from in excess of 250 million pounds to 110.2 million pounds as allocated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), about a 58 percent reduction. But whereas that 110.2 million pounds of annual production was expected to stay in effect until a reduction to 68.6 million pounds in 2014, the EPA, instead, ordered a year-by-year step down - 100 million pounds come 2011, 89.7 million pounds in 2012, 79.1 million pounds in 2013, and 68.6 million pounds in 2014, according to material distributed at the expo by National Refrigerants Inc.
“EPA is allocating 80 percent of the estimated quantity of R-22 needed for aftermarket servicing in 2010 and will decrease the allocation each year so that the supply of R-22 will be less than estimated demand,” National said.
The EPA made it clear that its allocation was designed to move the HVACR industry to reclamation services at a much faster pace than has been the case in recent years.
In a statement issued at the expo, DuPont officials said the industry could face a shortage of R-22 in the future. “The EPA Allocation Rule removes over 150 million pounds of R-22 from the marketplace in 2010 and up to an additional 100 million pounds through 2014, resulting in an annual 27.5-million-pound gap between supply and demand projected.”
During a press briefing, Diane Picho, global business manager for DuPont said, “The service industry needs to act immediately to reduce dependence on R-22 because the prospect of shortages is very real. We urge our industry partners to sharpen their focus on leak reduction, use of recycled and reclaimed R-22, and to strongly consider retrofit of existing equipment with HFC replacement refrigerants.
“With such actions, we can avoid shortages and keep equipment running efficiently and economically.”
PROGRAMS IN PLACEIt was the EPA’s contention that existing reclamation capacity is more than adequate to offset the potential shortfall. In fact, on the expo floor, best guess estimates were that the contractors were using less than 30 percent of the total reclamation capabilities of the industry - and many spoken with at the expo on this topic felt the percentage was considerably lower.
The fact that the technology was in place, ready to be used, was a recurring theme of the exhibitors.
On the show floorAirgas Refrigerants Inc.(www.airgasrefrigerants.com) had literature with the headline “Used Refrigerant … We’ll Take It.” The company noted, “We offer a variety of refrigerant return programs to meet every business need. Airgas will buy, exchange, bank or dispose of your used refrigerant gas.” The company noted it “provides DOT-approved recovery cylinders, coordinate all logistics, absorbs shipping costs, and also offers cylinder refurbishing services and hydrostatic testing.”
Arkema Inc.(www.foranerefrigerants.com) reported its Forane® Refrigerant Reclaim Program. “Our reclaim program is an important part of our commitment to provide leadership within the HVACR industry during the transition away from R-22,” said Patti Conlan, product manager for Arkema’s refrigerants business in North America. “It is designed to provide an additional supply of recycled R-22 to Arkema customers and an environmental benefit by reducing overall ODP emissions.”
Coolgas Inc.(www.coolgas.com) said it “provides refrigerant recovery services all over the U.S. and also purchases the refrigerant realized on the recovery jobs. This provides our customers with the most cost-effective solutions to EPA-approved refrigerant disposal. We provide the required EPA documentation for our customers. Coolgas will recover the refrigerant on-site, utilizing Universally Certified Technicians, and provide the EPA certification that the refrigerant was properly removed.” The Coolgas reclamation facility is located in Houston, where reclaimed refrigerant is lab tested by a third party laboratory and subsequently packaged in-house, the company said.
DuPont Refrigerants(www.refrigerants.dupont.com) noted it has a Refrigerant Reclaim Program. At the company’s Website, it said, “DuPont Authorized Refrigerant Reclaim Centers are located throughout the United States and are available to take back your used R-22 and most other refrigerants for reclaiming.” Those planning to submit refrigerant for reclaim were urged to contact their local distributor for details about their specific reclaim program.
Dynatemp International Inc.(www.dynatempintl.com) had information on its Dynacycle program for contractors. “Exchange your R-22 recovery cylinders at your local participating wholesaler. Receive your credit, good toward any purchase,” the company said. The program has no fees for cylinder exchange, processing, and freight, the company said.
For its part,Honeywell International Inc.(www.honeywell.com) said, “As a responsible chemical producer, Honeywell discourages any unnecessary release of refrigerants into the atmosphere and encourages contractors and end-users to return used refrigerant for reclamation and eventual re-use. Honeywell offers an economical EPA- and ARI-certified refrigerant reclamation program through our network of wholesalers and distributors.”
Hudson Technologies(www.hudsontech.com) described “the Gold and Platinum Refrigerant Reclamation Programs.” The Gold program offers buyback of R-22 and –410A, refrigerant disposal, freight cost coverage, one-year price commitment, and CFC refrigerant buyback. The Platinum program offers all that plus cylinder fleet maintenance, hydrostatic testing, and a cylinder swap program.
ICOR International Inc.(www.icorinternational.com) cited its Refrigerant Reclamation Division. “The Refri-Claim® program was designed with the refrigerant user in mind by offering - through its network of distributor based exchange centers - an easy over-the-counter cylinder swap program,” the company said. “With Refri-Claim®, users no longer need to worry about stocking back-up cylinders, repairing leaking valves, and dealing with the hassle and cost of recertification.”
National Refrigerants Inc.(www.refrigerants.com) used the expo to note that it “was one of the first ARI-certified reclamation facilities and is now the largest independent reclamation facility in the world.” It added, “NRI provides an economic incentive to recover and reclaim used refrigerants and offers a cost-effective way to guarantee future refrigerant supply.” The company offers both reclamation services and a banking program.
Polar Technology LLC(www.refrigerantauthority.com) drew attention to the Ecofluor 407A&C gas management program. The program is for HFC-407A and HFC-407C, which have been long standing alternatives to R-22.
It was promoted as “a proprietary recovery, reclamation, and recycling program that provides certified products that will enable contractors to use all 407-related materials at less than normal retail costs while maintaining the compliance and environmental integrity that customers demand.”
The same company also had information on its Ecotech refrigerant reclaim program that involves dropping off used recovery cylinders, receiving an Ecotech cylinder in exchange, and then having the reclamation process begin. In the Ecotech program, the slogan is “give us an idea of what gas is in the cylinder and we’ll take it.”