According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) most recent numbers, the total amount of R-22 that was reclaimed in 2017 dipped slightly when compared to 2016 (see table below). That is not necessarily good news for the HVACR industry, given that the production of R-22 will cease at the end of the year. While some may be concerned over whether recovery and reclamation efforts will be sufficient to meet the industry’s needs going forward, refrigerant reclaimers are adamant that R-22 is still widely available, affordable, and legal … and will continue to be so long after production of R-22 ends on Dec. 31.


ODS Refrigerant Reclamation Totals by Year (pounds)

CFC-11 CFC-12 CFC-13 CFC-113 CFC-114 CFC-502 HCFC-22 HCFC-123 HCFC-124 HCFC-500 HCFC-503 Total
2000 1,548,734 1,679,526 1,978 229,954 182,544 619,579 7,094,995 250,811 245,530 11,853,651
2001 1,182,130 1,296,745 1,485 162,572 100,581 249,604 4,320,103 212,568 188,981 7,714,769
2002 1,411,133 1,237,060 343 143,404 288,084 330,170 4,915,809 179,481 184,104 8,591 8,698,179
2003 903,731 623,245 110,425 394,091 90,749 4,356,619 110,022 90,344 6,679,226
2004 1,188,360 720,181 129,134 281,958 105,536 7,231,013 250,842 137,300 10,044,324
2005 985,184 593,345 107,985 70,086 55,181 6,172,133 319,539 74,278 8,377,731
2006 1,188,230 738,482 133,511 48,824 113,879 8,535,423 318,241 96,668 11,173,258
2007 891,687 460,594 1,389 162,773 26,400 75,431 8,191,322 227,323 41,518 10,078,437
2008 989,234 476,726 175,568 310,321 88,040 10,045,071 272,583 195,724 60 12,553,327
2009 1,026,824 212,638 224 135,301 16,554 136,936 7,544,327 436,463 118,847 46 9,628,160
2010 713,747 350,139 212 170,130 77,161 27,522 7,907,536 316,595 270 107,808 13 9,671,133
2011 719,036 291,869 68 151,887 327,537 41,448 8,290,406 335,760 74 43,430 30 10,201,545
2012 784,061 328,582 357 306,157 39,797 30,748 9,401,446 316,340 439 108,221 148 11,316,296
2013 736,126 372,521 185 36,166 415,399 15,689 8,703,218 445,854 1,088 48,616 395 10,775,257
2014 812,357 406,436 849 22,293 18,238 24,587 7,823,982 374,357 3,611 42,453 108 9,529,271
2015 740,543 288,302 118 217,007 6,370 15,771 7,812,805 399,683 199 33,171 32 9,514,001
2016 574,826 155,254 155 30,710 182,121 15,719 9,409,494 415,516 4,251 16,842 30 10,804,918
2017 957,114 263,957 1,292 86,561 10,461 27,206 9,193,675 597,256 396 32,665 184 11,170,767


HFC Refrigerant Reclamation Total 2017 (pounds)

  HFC-134a HFC-404A HFC-407C HFC-410A Other HFCs
2017 2,434,409 1,050,863 585,048 3,659,455 615,129


“The myths about R-22’s demise abound, but the reality is R-22 is readily available now and will be readily available well after 2020,” said Jay Kestenbaum, senior vice president of sales and purchasing, Aspen Refrigerants. “While virgin production and importation is ending this year, the industry has a level of stockpiled R-22 available, as well as a robust reclaimed R-22 supply pipeline, which is anticipated to meet market demand for decades to come. As an industry, we’ve been here before, with the production phaseout of R-11 and R-12 in 1995, and both refrigerants are still available today in ample supply via the reclaim market.”

He added that the reclaim industry is robust and the market is educated about both the importance of refrigerant reclaim and the legal requirements for reclamation.

“While additional reclaim growth will be necessary to support the ongoing installed base of R-22, the gradual replacement market and the subsequent reclaim opportunity that comes along with that will continue to ensure supply meets demand for the foreseeable future,” said Kestenbaum.

Carl Grolle, president of Golden Refrigerants, agrees, noting that overall, the amount of R-22 reclaimed annually should slowly decrease as it becomes less and less of the overall installed base of refrigerant. But there has been some confusion over the expectation that reclamation of R-22 is somehow going to dramatically expand.

“The EPA modeled a large increase in R-22 reclamation starting in 2015, and that expansion was used to cover the anticipated shortfall in the supply of R-22,” said Grolle. “The expansion of reclamation did not happen, but the shortfall of R-22 didn’t happen either. Their models were wrong, just as their models that predicted R-11 would run out shortly after the CFC production was stopped were wrong.”

Grolle noted that reclamation of R-22 last year was fairly consistent with previous years, and he expects similar results this year.

Given its imminent phaseout at the end of the year, it is interesting to note that prices of R-22 have actually decreased over the last 12 months.

“This indicates that R-22 is readily available and that the amount of virgin and reclaimed material is sufficient to meet the installed base of equipment for at least the next few years,” said Glenn Haun, sales director - Americas at Arkema Fluorochemicals.

Still, it is necessary to make sure that every pound of R-22 is recovered and sent to an EPA-certified reclamation facility for processing back to Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI)-700 specification, said Taylor Ferranti, vice president of refrigerant SBU at A-Gas US Inc.

“We did see a slight dip in reclamation last year, which we believe will recover in 2019,” he said. “The amount of R-22 currently being recovered will not be enough to sustain the installed base of equipment once the stockpiles are depleted. Stockpiled material will only last so long, which is why the key for the future is recovery, separation, and reclamation.”



To that end, reclaimers would like contractors and technicians to be more careful when recovering refrigerant, as there has been an uptick in the amount of mixed refrigerants they are receiving. While most mixed refrigerants can be reclaimed, it can be costly and time consuming.

“The contractors who are mixing refrigerants are adding costs to the collection of the refrigerants, which will eventually lead to higher prices charged to refrigerant that is turned in,” said Grolle.

Kestenbaum added that the percentage of mixed refrigerants has inevitably increased as the number of different replacement refrigerants and alternatives has increased.

“Education is key to minimizing refrigerant mixing, starting with labeling systems when replacements are installed to ensuring contractors have recovery tanks for each kind of refrigerant,” he said.

Ferranti noted that A-Gas is also seeing an increase in mixed refrigerants, but he said the company views it as an opportunity.

“We are seeing more and more mixed R-22 coming back through reclaim streams,” he said. “But A-Gas is continuing to invest in our world-class separation processes to ensure we can handle all mixes and volumes coming in through recovery/reclamation.”

Another challenge for reclaimers will simply be sustaining their businesses, said Grolle. Not only is the decreasing cost of R-22 an issue, but imported HFCs are having an effect, too.

“HFC dumping by China is in full swing, and despite trade investigations that have concluded that the dumping is real and intentional, the trade commission has chosen not to act,” he said. “HFCs are being sold at prices below the cost of manufacture and reclamation, which places a significant burden on all reclaimers that accept these refrigerants. Successful reclaimers will need to be very cost efficient and carry a low debt burden. It is hard to recognize much opportunity in the reclamation business in the near term.”

These low-cost HFCs flooding the market may also not be of the highest quality, which is why Arkema encourages those in the industry to think carefully before purchasing any refrigerant, said Haun.

“Always buy from reputable suppliers who have a long-term track record of supplying all types of refrigerants,” he said. “We also continue to remind our customers that R-22 use will remain legal after 2020, and that there is adequate supply available for at least the next few years.”

Indeed, combating the perception of an R-22 shortage is what Aspen intends to focus on for the foreseeable future.

“This myth that R-22 won’t be available and won’t be affordable is the biggest challenge to a continuing and growing reclaim market in the coming years,” said Kestenbaum. “If contractors don’t understand the importance of reclaim in continuing to sustain the R-22 market in the years to come, then the myth could be a self-fulfilling prophecy. But this challenge is also the biggest opportunity, and Aspen intends to continue to educate the market from end users to contractors to distributors, as well as to provide best-in-class reclaim programs to support market demands well into the future.”

Publication date: 6/3/2019

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