Arkema celebrated the 60th anniversary of its Forane® brand of refrigerants, and the company was excited to commemorate this event with customers during the AHR Expo, said René Molina, global business director for Arkema Fluorochemical’s emissive applications.
“Arkema Inc. has been manufacturing in the U.S. for over 70 years, bringing high-quality products to the HVACR market, and we believe in delivering sustainable solutions driven by innovation,” he said. “Offering a robust portfolio for today, tomorrow, and beyond, we are enabling tomorrow’s growth with a long-term outlook, supporting our customers with world-class customer and technical services.”
One of the key discussions in the HVACR industry right now involves the search for a next-generation replacement for R-410A, and Arkema’s booth reflected how it remains focused on developing low-GWP refrigerant solutions to provide choices for the industry.
“Arkema wants the industry to know that we are ready and have solutions for the replacement of R-410A and R-134a,” said Scot Swan, global marketing manager of air conditioning and refrigeration at Arkema. “Forane 32 refrigerant offers an excellent balance of cost, performance, and low environmental impact. Because of these attributes and global use, it has the potential to be the number one choice for R-410A replacement, as it has become in Asia and Europe.”
Katy Trosini, global marketing specialist, fluorochemicals at Arkema, noted that many of the contractors stopping by the booth wanted to know more about which refrigerant(s) would take the place of R-410A.
“Many asked about whether OEMs have made a decision about the next refrigerant,” she said. “They are confused about what’s going to happen in the future, and there’s a lot of uncertainty. As for Arkema, we are ready to supply R-32 as a replacement for R-410A. Many companies have already chosen R-32, but nobody has made a clear decision in North America, so everyone is waiting and holding their breath.”
Swan agreed that there is a lot of uncertainty in refrigerants right now, as the industry transitions out of the second generation of refrigerants (HCFCs), like R-22, while considering what will come after the third generation of refrigerants (HFCs) has run its course.
“Arkema is committed to working with our customers to develop the next generation of ultra-low GWP refrigerant solutions,” he said. “As experts in refrigerants, we want to help our customers make informed decisions for their future.”
Another focus in Arkema’s booth was its new replacement refrigerant, R-516A, which is a near drop-in and long-term solution for R-134a. With an ultra-low GWP of <150, it is a close match to R-134a in terms of capacity and efficiency and has zero glide. It is designed for use in heat pumps, chillers, and commercial refrigeration.
While Arkema does not like to use the term ‘drop-in’ replacement, Swan noted that R-516A will be able to be used in new equipment with minimal equipment modifications.
“Some accommodations would need to be made due to it being a mildly flammable refrigerant,” he said. “Other than that, because R-516A has the same capacity and efficiency, no other changes need to be made to the equipment.”
Contractors stopping by the Arkema booth also wanted to know about the aftermarket availability of R-22, which can no longer be produced or imported in the U.S. Swan noted that Arkema is in a position to supply virgin R-22 to its U.S. customers well beyond 2020. At its booth, Arkema reminded contractors that R-22 remains approved for use and remains the best choice for equipment designed for R-22. Arkema does also offer R-427A, an alternative to R-22 that can be used in many air conditioning and refrigeration systems.
Another theme in Arkema’s booth was the need for contractors to buy from a trusted source to ensure they are purchasing AHRI 700 specification refrigerants.
“Arkema took a proactive approach on counterfeit refrigerants several years ago, after we became aware of counterfeit products with our brand on them,” said Swan. “To combat the counterfeit product, we started the ‘Know Your Source’ initiative.”
Under this initiative, Forane refrigerants contain an anti-counterfeit heat shrink label covering the valve for almost all non-refillable, DOT-39 style packaging globally. The tamper-resistant label contains several features, including an authentication QR code, a visual readable authentication code, a color-shifting film, and a holographic film. Each of these features can be verified by the customer, if a product is suspect.
“To make things easier for our customers, Arkema launched the Forane Tool Belt app with anti-counterfeiting technology in 2017, which enables users to scan the unique QR code for each individual cylinder to confirm that they are purchasing high-quality product from a trusted supplier,” said Swan.
Looking ahead, the HVACR industry will be focusing on the proper handling of the next-generation, low-GWP refrigerants, some of which will likely be mildly flammable.
“The industry is taking a methodical approach to ensure these materials are handled safely and that all stakeholders have input on how they are used and processed,” said Swan. “Arkema is intimately involved with organizations such as AHRI and ACCA to ensure we address this challenge through training and proper guidelines. In 2020, we anticipate that these guidelines will be further developed and advanced for the codes and standards process.”
Another burning issue is the regulation of HFCs in the U.S. Several states have started implementing their own HFC phasedown policies, and more states are likely to join unless a federal framework becomes law.
“Arkema strongly supports federal action, such as the AIM Act, and we believe it will provide for a more consistent and effective result than a patchwork of state actions,” said Swan. “Our position has always been that the regulation of HFCs should be market-based, allow for innovation, and be uniform. Arkema is actively supporting this transition, and we continue to invest in next generation technologies.”
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