Peter Powell

I am writing this, my last column of 2009, only moments after I finished the rough draft of a nearly 2,000-word story that appears elsewhere in this issue. That story was written to meet this issue’s focus, “Refrigerant Revolution – An 11th Hour Update.” It was pretty much a straightforward account of developments throughout 2009 along with some guesses from industry folks as to how things might play out in 2010.

One of the most interesting things about the predictions is that nobody really knows for certain what will occur. The biggest problem is that the story and column were written in mid-November and things that we would like to have been resolved by then, had not yet been resolved. That being said, having been so objective in the main story, I will now try to make some subjective predictions.

ISSUE NO. 1:Waxman-Markey, that big environmental piece of legislation that could affect HFC production down the road. It also has a lot of cap-and-trade issues with it and a lot of cost concerns. It’s cleared the House and is currently in the Senate.

PREDICTION:It won’t pass the Senate as is. Even after it is referred back to committee and revised and then revised some more, it still won’t pass. HFCs probably won’t end up as part of it either. How do I know? Too many cost issues and confusion – but mainly cost issues.

ISSUE NO. 2:EPA regulations regarding R-22 equipment and R-22 allocations.

PREDICTION:The regulations will finally become law in the last days of December, take effect Jan. 1 as long planned, and look exactly like they looked way back almost a year ago when they were first published and clarified. Yes, there will still be some confusion over what you can and can’t do regarding equipment installation and servicing, but, let’s face it folks, there is no real enforcement in place. Please understand, I am not advocating intentionally violating the law. But if you try to understand the laws as best you can, ask for clarifications if you need to, and do what you can do to conform to the laws, that’s all that can be asked of you.

ISSUE NO. 3:Salvaging existing R-22 systems by better servicing, and use of HFC alternatives.

PREDICTION: The cost of new R-22 and the cost of a new HFC system will motivate even more efforts at leak checking. All those HFC alternatives that can be retrofitted into existing R-22 systems will by tried, especially those that get full support from manufacturers that explain the range of applications and are honest about limitations.

ISSUE NO. 4:Long-term future of HFCs.

PREDICTION:They will face a phase down starting sometime in the future and the phase down will last many, many years. However, there is no need to panic anytime soon. HFCs will be around for quite some time.

ISSUE NO. 5:Reclamation.

PREDICTION:It will continue to grow as an option, but more so because of rising costs of virgin R-22 than incentives or enticements offered by the reclaimers. Also, look for the reclaim sector to pare down the number of companies out there over the next few years. This is what happened years ago when we had 53 companies making recovery machines, and now we have about six or eight companies, all reputable. How do I know this will happen regarding reclaim? Look at the current EPA list of certified reclaimers. There just happens to be 53. I figure history will repeat itself here.

ISSUE NO. 6:Will there be a shortage of R-22 in 2010?

PREDICTION:Probably not. Why not? Two reasons: Just a gut feeling and undercurrents that I’ve been hearing in the industry. That’s not to say it won’t eventually come. I just don’t see it kicking in a soon as the ball drops in New York City at midnight Jan.1.

FINAL COP OUT:That final prediction is also in response to a problem that arose in my life many years ago. That was when I joined the ‘sky is falling club’ saying we’d never make a fairly smooth transition from CFCs to HCFCs. A lot of that was based on fears of adequate supplies of CFCs in making the transitions. But they were around, so I’m guessing HCFCs will be around long enough for another fairly smooth transition.

For 2010, here’s hoping your businesses all pick up to such an extent that you need lots of refrigerant - virgin or reclaimed - because of all the systems you have to install and service. That would make keeping regulatory and supply issues high on your radar screen a most pleasant necessity.

Publication date:12/07/2009