HVAC Industry Invests in Low-GWP Refrigerants
HVACR industry spent more than $255 million in 2015 to research, develop low-GWP refrigerants
WASHINGTON — HVACR industry leaders and White House officials gathered Oct. 15 at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, District of Columbia, to reaffirm their 2014 pledge to invest $5 billion over 10 years in the research, development, and commercialization of low-GWP (global warming potential) refrigerants. Representatives from participating industry associations, refrigerant producers, and manufacturers of refrigeration equipment and components also provided progress reports detailing the steps they’ve taken over the past year to meet the goal of reducing hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) use 80 percent by 2050. The event was hosted by Dr. Ernest Moniz, U.S. Secretary of Energy; and Gina McCarthy, the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
During the White House event, Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) president and CEO Stephen Yurek reported the industry spent more than $255 million in 2015 toward its goals, demonstrating the industry’s commitment to environmental stewardship. He noted the $5 billion pledge is in addition to the nearly $2 billion spent on such research the previous five years. The yearly totals are expected to grow as spending moves from research into development and testing of equipment using the new refrigerants.
“Our industry’s refrigerant research and equipment development program has made great strides, even since last year’s White House event,” Yurek said, adding that AHRI is wrapping up the second phase of a four-year research project to identify the next generation of refrigerants.
“We’re now in a position to do two things,” Yurek said. “One, begin to develop equipment that will use the new refrigerants in specific applications, and, two, to begin to focus on another class of promising new refrigerants that are slightly flammable. So, today, AHRI is committing to provide up to $1 million for a collaborative, tightly focused research effort into how to safely use these refrigerants, and we are actively seeking additional sponsors to help fund this important research.”
Paul Stalknecht, president and CEO, ACCA, also participated in the roundtable event, where he discussed HVACR contractors’ roles in phasing down high-GWP HFCs.
“ACCA’s participation demonstrates that contractors play an important role in the policy development process,” he said. “The HVACR industry’s at a critical crossroads, as the U.S. Department of Energy [DOE] is setting new energy-efficiency standards for several product classes of HVACR equipment while, simultaneously, the EPA is initiating a regulatory phasedown of refrigerants with a high GWP. Meanwhile, the State Department is engaged in global discussions that will trigger a phasedown of HFCs through the Montreal Protocol in the next few years.”
INVESTING IN R&D
Johnson Controls Inc. joined the roundtable where reps reaffirmed the company’s three-year, $50 million commitment to developing and expanding its existing low-GWP product portfolio announced one year ago. Since last year, the company’s invested $15 million into research and development of low-GWP refrigerants and component technology for scroll, screw, and centrifugal compressor-based products.
“This is the second year of the forum, and we’re honored to be a part of it,” said Laura Wand, vice president of global chiller solutions at Johnson Controls. “It’s an opportunity for the industry that uses products containing HFCs as well as producers of HFCs to come together with government agencies and discuss how to move forward in an intelligent and planned transition over time to lower-GWP systems in total. We’re developing more high-efficiency, low-GWP options for products within our commercial and industrial portfolios. What’s really interesting is we’re going to be offering equipment that can be readily retrofitted with low-GWP refrigerants to give customers who buy equipment today a future-proof alternative and the full beneficial use of the equipment they buy today.”
Over the past decade, Johnson Controls’ product innovations for buildings have reduced refrigerant charge in equipment by nearly 30 percent while improving efficiency more than 40 percent, which has a major impact on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Other research and development focus areas have included efforts to reduce the potential for leaks as well as improved maintenance practices and service training.
Johnson Controls also announced that, over the next 12 months, the company will complete the following:
• Develop high-efficiency, low-GWP refrigerant options in its commercial air conditioning and industrial refrigeration product portfolio;
• Offer equipment that can be readily retrofitted with low-GWP options for customers concerned they will not receive the full value over the entire life of their equipment; and
• Develop aftermarket retrofit services for customers who desire to convert their existing equipment to low-GWP refrigerants.
In addition, the company will donate up to $100,000 toward independent, third-party, peer-reviewed research to support the development safety standards related to the use of mildly flammable, low-GWP refrigerants. The company also plans to support and participate in an industry effort to develop and standardize service technician and operator training for the safe use of these same refrigerants.
“As always, we choose refrigerants for our products that best fit the needs of our customers and the environment based on safety and efficiency, as well as reliability, availability, and cost,” Wand said. “We will continue our commitment to our customers by advocating for them at events like this one.”
DEVELOPING, COMMERCIALIZING EQUIPMENT
Daikin Industries Ltd. has long been committed to producing HVAC systems with exceptionality low GWPs. Daikin’s U.S.-based subsidiary, Goodman Global Group Inc., was recognized by the White House at last year’s roundtable.
At this year’s event, Daikin committed to further develop and produce HVAC systems that utilize environmentally beneficial technologies designed to have a positive impact on the environment, said Shinya Okada, senior executive officer of Daikin. “We are grateful that our efforts have been recognized by President Barack Obama’s administration, and we feel Daikin can contribute leadership to the private sector that is needed for global climate protection,” he added.
Daikin made three specific announcements at the White House event:
• Goodman will begin production and sale of the first-ever high-efficiency package terminal air conditioning (PTAC) systems using the next-generation refrigerant HFC-32. PTAC units are self-contained heating and air conditioning systems used extensively in hotels, motels, senior housing facilities, hospitals, condominiums, and apartment buildings. The new units will be manufactured in the U.S. beginning in the first quarter of 2016 and marketed under the Amana® brand name. Additional PTAC products are expected to be introduced over time;
• Daikin said it would continue efforts to strictly control and eliminate byproduct emissions of HFC-23, a high-GWP material created during production of hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC)-22. The commitment extends to Daikin’s U.S. and worldwide facilities. Destroying the HFC-23 byproduct will reduce GWP emissions by an amount equivalent to 6.7 million metric tons of CO2 per year; and
• The company reiterated an announcement it made last month that Daikin is offering manufacturing companies worldwide free access to 93 patents to encourage others to develop and commercialize air conditioning and heat pump equipment that uses HFC-32 as a single-component refrigerant. HFC-32 is a next-generation refrigerant that addresses a range of environmental considerations in a balanced manner. The non-ozone-depleting substance is energy efficient, affordable, and easier to recycle, and it has a GWP that is one-third of today’s most commonly used refrigerant.
Recapping significant progress made this year, Bob Sharp, Emerson executive vice president and head of Emerson Climate Technologies Inc., told event attendees his business introduced a new line of efficient, environmentally friendly compressors and unveiled a new energy-management system for small businesses. The full line of compressors and controls utilizes refrigerants that are more than 50 percent lower in GWP compared to the products they were created to replace. The company also introduced the new Copeland Scroll™ compressors for supermarkets and convenience stores. These compressors, which are compatible with low-GWP refrigerants, are 15 percent more efficient than their predecessors.
“Over the last year, we delivered on our promise to increase energy efficiency while enabling the use of lower-GWP refrigerants. We will only continue to build on that momentum that goes beyond government standards,” Sharp said. “Emerson is proud to help our nation’s leaders understand that, with our customers, we drive transformational change across the global HVACR industry.”
Emerson also increased production and training for products that use carbon dioxide, a natural and energy-efficient refrigerant. The new carbon dioxide line includes compressors, flow controls, discrete electronic devices, and system electronic controls that enhance energy efficiencies in refrigeration systems. Additionally, the company developed and released ecoSYS Site Supervisor, a system that combines energy management with the ability to monitor various systems to ensure top performance and efficiency for small retail facilities. The system allows operators to take advantage of energy savings and provides alerts when potential issues, such as refrigerant leaks, arise.
Sharp noted Emerson Climate Technologies invests nearly two-thirds of its global research and development resources on developing low-GWP and high-efficiency products, solutions, and services and will continue that investment with the 2016 opening of its new Helix Innovation Center in Dayton, Ohio. The $35 million center at the University of Dayton campus will focus on solving the energy and environmental challenges affecting homes, commercial buildings, supermarkets, restaurants, convenience stores, and data centers.
REVISING CODES AND STANDARDS
Danfoss North America also provided an update on its ongoing commitment to convening a codes and standards task force to address a major barrier in broad adoption of mildly flammable, low-GWP refrigerants. The task force — which includes HVAC industry experts, environmental advocacy groups, EPA and UL representatives, codes officials, fire marshals, and other stakeholders with a vested interest — is focused on accelerating the implementation of fire and building codes for mildly flammable, low-GWP refrigerants.
“State and local fire and building codes are major barriers to the broad deployment and adoption of low-GWP refrigerants in the U.S.,” said John Galyen, president of Danfoss North America. “These codes often prohibit the use of flammable or even mildly flammable refrigerants, even in very small amounts less than a typical aerosol spray can. Since they’re developed and mandated locally across hundreds or thousands of jurisdictions, codes are difficult to change and create an effective obstacle to manufacturers offering products with low-GWP refrigerants that may be flammable or mildly flammable.”
The task force has already taken several steps to help accelerate implementation of fire and building codes for these refrigerants, including launching a communications plan to educate the industry on the need for revised standards and codes.
“Future progress is highly dependent on ASHRAE Standard 15, which is delayed because additional testing and analytical work is needed,” Galyen said. “Some of that work is being done, but some still needs funding. Without the needed research, we risk missing the three-year code cycle, which can protract and complicate the conversion to low-GWP alternatives. Administrative support at that critical moment could be decisive.”
Danfoss has worked with ASHRAE and been active at the meetings of its refrigerant safety Standard 15 committee, Galyen said. “We ask for the administration’s support in encouraging local and state governments in the timely adoption of the standards, once completed. During the next 12 months, the task force will continue collaboration with ASHRAE, the model code groups, firefighter associations, state code groups, and state and city governance associations. As ASHRAE Standard 15 nears publication, the task force will help prepare, coordinate, and submit code proposals.”
Danfoss also announced a multi-million-dollar investment in a new application and development testing center in the U.S. to increase the amount of available laboratory capacity to help air conditioning and refrigeration equipment manufacturers prepare to meet both energy-efficiency and refrigerant regulations. Danfoss expects to break ground on the facility in late 2015.
“The center will enable our customers to test their equipment for safety and performance compliance using new low-GWP refrigerants, including those that are deemed mildly flammable,” Galyen said.
PLEDGING TO REDUCE EMISSIONS
At the roundtable, Ingersoll Rand also updated participants on its commitment to reducing high-GWP refrigerant use and emissions. Over the last year, the company’s Climate Commitment led to the avoidance of approximately 1.5 million metric tons of CO2e, which is equivalent to the CO2 emissions from burning more than 1.6 billion pounds of coal and the electricity use of more than 200,000 homes for one year. By 2030, the company expects to reduce its carbon footprint by 50 million metric tons.
“In delivering our Climate Commitment, we made a profound, long-term environmental pledge to our employees, customers, and shareholders to address the unsustainable global demand for energy resources and its impact on the environment,” said Paul Camuti, senior vice president of innovation and chief technology officer, Ingersoll Rand. “We’ve transformed our approach to energy efficiency and greenhouse gas reductions and are making strong progress in reducing the climate impact of our portfolio. We’re encouraged to see so many in the HVAC industry joining us to tackle the global challenges surrounding climate change and resource scarcity.”
Camuti shared that the company’s Thermo King® trailer, self-powered truck, and marine refrigeration products with strong efficiency performance and lower-GWP refrigerants will be available to U.S. customers by 2017, pending U.S. EPA Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) approval. Additionally, its Trane® high-performance chiller portfolio with low-GWP refrigerant alternatives will be available in the U.S. by the end of 2018 with commercial availability dependent on receiving SNAP approval for select new refrigerants. These products are part of the Ingersoll Rand EcoWise portfolio that endorses the company’s refrigerant bearing products that meet certain criteria for safety, efficiency, refrigerant use, and greenhouse gas emissions.
PART OF THE PLAN
Reducing HFCs is a goal of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, and the previously mentioned HVACR manufacturers — as well as Arkema, Carrier Corp., Chemours, Hillphoenix, and Honeywell Intl. Inc. — are helping make that happen by committing to invest billions of dollars to develop and deploy the next generation of safer HFC alternatives and by incorporating climate-friendly technologies into the cars, air conditioners, refrigerators, foams, and other products they manufacture and use.
“We’re transitioning to low-GWP refrigerants and striving to develop alternatives that are safe, efficient, affordable, and available,” Wand said. “The end goal is to shrink the carbon footprint of commercial and industrial spaces, and the way we can do that is by reducing the energy use of equipment, controlling it, and servicing it so we reduce leakage.”
Ultimately, transitioning to more energy-efficient, lower-GWP refrigerants is a positive move that will benefit the entire supply chain all the way down to the end user, said Bill McQuade, director of technology, energy efficiency, and the environment, Johnson Controls.
“It’s easy to equate reductions in high-GWP refrigerants and carbon emissions to saving our customers money, and, at the end of the day, saving energy is in alignment with our customers’ desire to save money, so it’s not a hard sell,” McQuade said. “We’ve been in this business a long time. Our equipment is 40 percent more efficient than it was 25 years ago. This isn’t new to us. We were green before green was cool, and we’ve been doing this a long time.”
SIDEBAR: MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING
In advance of the roundtable, ACCA and the Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy; Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI); Heating Air-conditioning, and Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI); and EOS Climate announced a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on incentivizing the increased deployment of reclaimed hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants across the diversity of refrigeration and air conditioning applications. The signatories aim to create a mechanism for refrigerant end users to demonstrate commitment and leadership on climate change and refrigerant management through the development of an HFC credit bank. Over the next three years, the signatories to the MOU will advance the following:
•Minimizing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by maximizing recovery of HFC refrigerant during equipment servicing and at the end of its life for processing and restoration to virgin-grade purity by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-certified reclaimers;
•Efficient movement of reclaimed HFC refrigerant across distribution networks to service technicians for reuse to service existing equipment and for charging newly manufactured equipment;
•Inclusion of verified emission reductions (VERs) issued by the American Carbon Registry (ACR) resulting from production and use of reclaimed HFC refrigerant, in conformance with a new GHG protocol approved by ACR — “Emission Reduction Measurement and Monitoring Methodology for Use of Reclaimed HFC Refrigerants and Advanced Refrigeration Systems;”
•Purchase and retirement of VERs by users of HFCs as a means to demonstrate the use of verified recycled refrigerant or to offset GHG emissions of HFC — including original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), government agencies, supermarkets, hotels, airports, shopping malls, office buildings, sports stadiums, and others;
•Reporting of GHG reductions enabled through the purchase of reclaimed HFC VERs to existing reporting frameworks (e.g., carbon disclosure project, Sustainability Accounting Standards Board [SASB], World Business Council for Sustainable Development [WBCSD], and the World Resources Institute [WRI]); and
•Collaboration with the Global Refrigerant Management Initiative and other GHG reporting/accounting efforts to include HFC VERs in refrigerant management and GHG emission reduction strategies as well as assistance in developing case studies and other relevant outreach materials.
The HFC credit bank will be developed as a pilot program in 2016 with the intent of full implementation in 2017. The bank will rely on the HFC reclaim protocol prepared by EOS Climate and approved by the ACR to provide certified carbon credits for reclaimed HFCs.
Information courtesy of ACCA.
Publication date: 11/2/2015