The July 2 ruling from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that sets forth the timeframes for the phaseout of certain hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in specific applications presents some challenges for the refrigeration industry. The ruling also presents new opportunities for growth of the natural refrigerants market.
The ruling, however, was not unexpected, and it did not catch many of the major refrigerant manufacturers flatfooted. In fact, several of these companies have invested millions of dollars into research and development of low-GWP (global-warming potential) refrigerants, resulting in a number of options for contractors seeking alternatives to the refrigerants that have been delisted under the EPA’s recent rule, “Protection of Stratospheric Ozone: Change of Listing Status for Certain Substitutes under the Significant New Alternatives Policy Program [SNAP].”
THE FIRST STEP
Eric Youngdale, global market manager, Opteon® Refrigerants, the Chemours Co. (formerly a part of DuPont), noted he is not aware of any EPA or program to phase down or phase out HFCs as a total category. Rather, the EPA is using the SNAP program to help transition the industry away from high-GWP products used in refrigeration and air conditioning, aerosols, and foam-blowing sectors where lower-GWP products are available.
“This is likely a first step by the EPA in helping the industry transition from HFCs to lower-GWP hydrofluoroolefin [HFO] alternatives,” Youngdale said.
According to Youngdale, Chemours has developed an entire family of lower-GWP, high-performance refrigerants under the Opteon brand name. These refrigerants are designed to deliver a balance of performance, safety, environmental sustainability, and cost for specific applications.
Chemours offers the nonflammable, low-GWP refrigerants Opteon XP40 (R-449A) and Opteon XP10 (R-513A). XP40 is an HFO blend with a 64 percent lower GWP than R-404A, and and is available for use for retrofit or new equipment applications to replace R-404A and R-507A. In addition to having a lower GWP, Youngdale said XP40 delivers efficiency improvements of 8-12 percent over R-404A, which helps decrease the equipment’s overall carbon footprint. XP10 is an HFO blend with a GWP of 631, which is more than 50 percent lower than R-134a and is a very close performance match to R-134a for both retrofit and new systems. Both of these products are approved by the EPA and will be available for sale Aug. 31.
Another R-404A replacement option from Chemours is Opteon XP44 (R-452A). XP44 is a nonflammable HFO blend with a GWP of 2,141, which is a 45 percent reduction compared to R-404A. While it has a GWP slightly higher than XP40, XP44 is a very close performance match to R-404A for retrofit and new systems and is suited particularly well for use where low discharge temperatures are required, such as walk-in/reach-in displays for commercial refrigeration, Youngsdale said. XP44 is expected to be approved by the EPA and commercially available in 2015.
“We expect rapid market acceptance of these three new refrigerants because they are very close matches to the HFCs being replaced, which minimizes the cost of transition, and because they are class A1 non-flammable and do not require any changes to the codes and standards to be applied,” Youngdale said.
As a replacement for R-410A in air conditioning applications, Chemours offers Opteon XL41 (R-454B). XL41, which is a very close performance match to R-410A while boasting a 78 percent-lower GWP of 460. XL41 is ASHRAE safety class A2L mildly flammable and, therefore, can be used only where codes and standards allow 2L flammables.
The company also has a new product under development called DR-55, which does not yet have an ASHRAE number or safety classification. DR-55, which also is class A2L, has a slightly higher GWP (698) than XP41, but Chemours said it is designed to offer an optimized combination of high performance and low 2L flammability properties.
“Broad adoption of these new 2L flammable refrigerants will depend on interest in replacing R-410A with lower GWP options, and also the implementation of codes and standards that allow 2L flammables to be used in air conditioning applications,” Youngdale said.
At Honeywell Refrigerants, Robert Kebby, global marketing manager, said the regulations are driving a necessary stepdown to lower-GWP solutions that aim to decrease the direct impact of refrigerant emissions from leakage and increase equipment energy efficiency.
“Refrigerant manufacturers are responding, and we are witnessing an unprecedented era of technology development to meet regulatory and customer demands with more climate-friendly alternatives to strike a better balance between energy efficiency, environmental impact, and cost-effectiveness,” Kebby said.
Honeywell continues to be proactive with innovative, next-generation refrigerants that deliver improved cooling performance with reduced GWP, he said.
For commercial refrigeration, Honeywell currently offers two solutions: Solstice® N40 (R-448A) an HFO blend for new supermarkets and R-404A supermarket retrofits and Genetron Performax® LT (R-407F), an HFC blend for R-22 supermarket retrofits.
Genetron Performax LT (R-407F) helps lower supermarket operating costs and is the closest match to R-22 in supermarket retrofits. No TXV changes or adjustments are needed when retrofitting away from R-22. R-407F is nonflammable, non-ozone-depleting and has a GWP of 1,674.
“Honeywell’s refrigerants for commercial refrigeration will help our customers meet the target of the greenhouse gas emission-reductions steps defined by each country that has signed the Kyoto Protocol,” Kebby said.
The EPA’s rule affirmed that Arkema’s Forane® 407A, an alternative to R-404A, R-507A, and R-22 in refrigeration applications, can continue to be used in supermarket systems and remote condensing units for both new equipment and retrofits, according to Patti Conlan, fluorochemicals refrigeration market manager, Arkema Inc.
“Forane 407A remains acceptable for use in these applications and will continue to be the solution for end users looking to transition away from R-404A/R-507A,” Conlan said. “For these applications, as well as air conditioning, Arkema’s Forane 427A can also be used as an EPA-approved retrofit, whereas several other retrofits will no longer be acceptable in certain refrigeration applications.”
Conlan noted that, as of Jan. 1, 2017, in supermarket systems, and Jan. 1, 2018, in remote condensing units, R-404A, R-507A, and several other high-GWP refrigerants cannot be used in new installations. For these applications, Forane 407A is the approved solution, she said, adding that installed systems can continue to be serviced with their existing refrigerants — even R-404A or R-507A.
“Arkema is developing low-GWP refrigerant solutions to meet the future needs of the industry,” Conlan said. “For example, R-449B, recently classified by ASHRAE, is a nonflammable, class A1 replacement or retrofit for R-404A/R-22 in commercial refrigeration and low-temperature stand-alone equipment. Equipment testing demonstrates that R-449B can offer improved efficiency over R-404A while cutting the GWP by two-thirds. R-449B is being used by industry leaders working to provide acceptable options with improved performance.”
In the long term, Arkema’s global refrigerant solutions will involve movement to low-GWP refrigerants across all HVAC and refrigeration markets, Conlan concluded.
In summary, although the EPA’s rule on delisting certain HFCs in specific applications was yet another curveball for the HVACR industry, the industry and many of its major equipment and refrigerant manufacturers have proven time and time again they have the innovation and flexibility to withstand any challenge thrown their way.
Publication date: 8/3/2015