The European cooling industry needs to make plans to move quickly to lower-global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants as the cuts in hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) quota envisaged by the F-Gas regulations will bite sooner than many people expect.
That was the message from companies at Chillventa, Europe’s biggest cooling exhibition last month.
Refrigerant suppliers warned that it was important to make plans to move away from the higher-GWP refrigerants, like R-404A, as significant cuts in HFC quota will have an impact as soon as 2017. They also stressed that end users would not be able to make the necessary GWP cuts with new-build systems alone, but rather that retrofitting with low-GWP refrigerants would be necessary.
Equipment suppliers provided some good news, saying that hydrofluoroolefin (HFO) blends had performed so well in testing that they can often perform as ‘real drop-in’ replacements, in a number of cases not even requiring a change in oil type.
DuPont’s European business and market manager, John McMenamin, warned that decisions need to be made sooner rather than later. “The reality is that a large proportion of the installed base will need to be retrofitted to lower-GWP refrigerants to meet the required reductions of 2017, 2018, and beyond. This means the market will have a very real, large, and critical need for lower-GWP solutions that offer fast, easy, and cost-effective retrofits.”
He stressed that as soon as 2017 the industry would feel the impact. “This is a critical date as it is the year when more than 17 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent that is currently contained in imported pre-charged equipment must fit under the existing cap. In 2017, all pre-charged equipment coming into the EU must use refrigerant purchased from existing quota holders. This is, in effect, an extra and earlier quota reduction.”
There was little doubt amongst the large compressor manufacturers that the solution for the near future was an HFO blend, which would enable the current engineering base to install or retrofit without needing significant training.
Rainer Grosse Kracht, chief technology officer, Bitzer, said advanced field testing with supermarkets proved HFOs can be used to good effect, passing in the key areas of efficiency and materials compatibility.
“We started testing with HFOs five years ago, and there have been no issues from our side. It is easy to apply in practice, especially in warmer climates, and you could install it today in medium-temperature or chiller applications. It really is a drop-in refrigerant for R-134a.”
The key principle that has been established is that judicious use of HFOs and blends will provide security for end users looking to reduce GWP, he said.
“It means you could invest in a system now running on R-134a and you will be secure for the future in Europe in terms of the F-Gas regulations. Technicians know what to do, and HFO blends will be no different — they are a real drop-in replacement.”
A Natural Pause
It also means companies do not need to rush headlong into naturals if their engineering support is not ready for it, he added. “It’s a chance to educate technicians in natural refrigerants. It’s a safe transition. The important thing is to ensure technicians are properly trained because we all know installation problems can kill a refrigerant, if you are not careful.”
DuPont announced at the show it had signed a deal with Dutch retailer Albert Rijn to install its HFO blend RF449A in 200 stores in place of R-507A. The retailer found that, in three trial stores, the conversion only required changes to the electronic expansion valves (EEVs), not to oil or components. Each conversion took less than four hours, with trading continuing, DuPont reported.
Grosse-Kracht noted that it was important when installing systems to look at the total CO2 emissions, so efficiency of the system was a key element, not just straight GWP. He noted that in Germany in 2010, refrigeration indirect emissions were 16 times that of direct emissions. “So the efficiency is crucial, too. If we can get that indirect figure just 10 percent down, we are making an impact.”
There was much debate at the show as to when the blends would be made available to the public.
Content for the European Spotlight is provided courtesy of Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Magazine, London. For more information, visit www.racplus.com.
Publication date: 12/1/2014