Refrigerant Supply Shortfall to Hit in Three Years
European manufacturers predict decreasing quotas will create a shortfall prior to 2020
Those involved at the sharp end of refrigerants and testing have underlined warnings that F-Gas quotas and the forthcoming bans are on course to create serious supply issues for end users and equipment manufacturers alike — if they don’t plan ahead.
According to John Ormerod, managing director of refrigerant distributor, A-Gas, the company’s demand modeling has confirmed the annually decreasing quotas will inevitably create a shortfall far sooner than 2020, when the first F-Gas servicing ban applies.
“The market is going to get tighter sooner than people realize,” he said. “There is no doubt there will be a supply crunch, and it is not going to occur in 2020, it will be in the next three years. Our modeling shows the shortfall in refrigerant produced because of the quota reductions could be more than the entire U.K. requirement for R-404A, so, it is significant.”
At the same time, the refrigerant supply issues are going to create serious challenges for the manufacturing and servicing sectors, warned Chris Playford, market development director for Foster Refrigerator.
“The EC is legislating out refrigerants for which the replacement doesn’t yet exist — we can’t use hydrocarbons (HCs) within the 150-g limit for all our products. For instance, blast chillers would currently require 3 kg of hydrocarbon. We could, over time, get that down to 500 g, but it would still not meet current flammability regulations.
“If we used HFOs [hydrofluoroolefins], would they face a similar charge limit, given they are slightly flammable?” he continued. “The other alternative would be to design equipment with split circuits. That isn’t complicated to design, but it would obviously be much more difficult to service out in the field, given the difficult access of a kitchen.
“Whether to use ‘transitional’ refrigerants — medium-GWP (global warming potential) blends such as R-407A and -407F — or move straight to HFO blends will be a key consideration, especially since the recently released HFOs can be as much as four to five times the price of R404A.”
Playford said the servicing sector will bear the brunt of the uncertainty as replacements are sought.
“I think we’ll see everyone clambering for the transitional refrigerants for the next two years, flooding the service market. Then, you’ll find engineers facing issues like being caught with the wrong spares.”
Ormerod was forthright in reiterating advice to move away from high-GWP refrigerants as soon as possible.
“Get the heck out of R-404A has to be the first advice — but, unfortunately, I don’t get the sense that people are in a rush. The supermarket sector seems to have other priorities at the moment.”
He also warned that R-404A prices would inevitably spike in the next couple of years as the production decreases.
The F-Gas legislation allows refrigerant manufacturers to choose what to produce to meet a quota weighted on GWP, and it follows the volume of R-404A produced could reduce quickly.
“Once refrigerant manufacturers have exhausted their quotas, what happens next?” asked Omerod. “How will they manage what each market has? He who holds the quota holds most of the cards. But the message for end users must be to plan ahead.”
“Equipment manufacturers, such as Foster, face additional challenges over the next two to three years, since they have to comply with an HFC [hydrofluorocarbon] phasedown as well as the terms of the new Ecodesign directive,” said Playford.
This legislation, which will be implemented at varying times over the next 18 months depending on product type, requires the manufacturer to perform energy tests on all its ranges in order to produce an A-E energy label.
Information for the European Spotlight courtesy of Andrew Gaved, editor, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning magazine, London. For more information, visit www.racplus.com.
Publication date: 8/3/2015