US EPAUSA: New proposals by the US EPA will see a tightening of HFC refrigerant emission, venting and sales laws.

The new proposals would update, redefine and strengthen existing rules governing ozone-depleting refrigerants refrigerant, their sales, handling, recovery, and recycling, and additionally apply those rules to HFCs.

The EPA’s intentions were revealed by administrator Gina McCarthy at last week’s meeting at the White House.

The proposed updates to section 608 of the current US Clean Air Act would require the certification of engineers, would lower minimum allowable leakage rates and insist on the compulsory replacement of persistently leaking systems. It would also strengthen leak repair requirements and establish record-keeping requirements for the disposal of appliances containing 5-50lb (2.27- 22.7kg) of refrigerant.

Lower leak rates

The EPA proposes lowering the leak rates to 20% or lower (from 35%) for industrial process refrigeration and commercial refrigeration appliances and to 10% or lower (from 15%) for comfort cooling appliances for both ODS and substitute HFC refrigerants. In addition, under this proposal, an appliance containing 50lb (22.7kg) or more of refrigerant would not be allowed to leak more than 75% of its full charge in two consecutive twelve-month periods and remain in use.

According to the EPA leakage rates in 2014 reported amongst its GreenChill retailing partners was under 14%. Several supermarket chains, including some having hundreds of stores, are said to have consistently reported a corporate-wide leak rate below 10%.

Record-keeping

The EPA is proposing to extend the requirement for record-keeping by any person recovering refrigerant from an appliance normally containing more than 5lb (22.7kg) of refrigerant. The rule currently applies only to ODS refrigerants in appliance with 50lb (22.7kg) or more of full charge.

The proposal is said to be based on feedback from stakeholders who report that venting of refrigerant is a common occurrence with recovery being much more common in the refrigeration industry than the air conditioning industry. The EPA also says it receives numerous tips-offs each year of incidences of cutting refrigerant lines to quickly and illegally dispose of appliances.

Realising that some mini split air conditioners and small remote condensing refrigeration systems may not be covered by this record-keeping proposal, the EPA is also inviting comments on whether this requirement should apply to all appliances that are disassembled in the field, regardless of the charge size.

Knowingly venting or otherwise releasing into the environment of HFC and PFC refrigerants remains illegal but the EPA is considering changes to its interpretation which would make it illegal to add refrigerant to an appliance that is known to be leaking, without first repairing the leaks.

Existing regulations requiring that technicians be certified to work on ODS appliances and restrict the sale of ODS refrigerant to certified technicians will be extended to HFCs and PFCs.

Related stories:

HFC pledges could save 1 billion tonnes CO2e – October 15, 2015
USA: New initiatives on reducing the consumption of HFC refrigerants are expected save the emission of more than 1 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2025. Read more…