The beginning of the end for HFCs?

13150255_sBRUSSELS: The parties to the F-gas revisions stepped back from the brink today by agreeing a phase down of HFCs and equipment bans that will see a huge take-up in low GWP gases.

Dubbed by green groups as “the beginning of the end for HFCs”, the deal will introduce a cap on HFC consumption to achieve a 79% reduction by 2030.

While some of the exact details are still not clear it appears that concessions have been made by both industry and environmentalists.

As expected, the use of HFCs with a GWP of over 2500 will be banned in hermetic standalone refrigeration equipment from 2020 and by 2022 the equipment will be restricted to gases with a GWP below 150. In addition, the much-criticised service ban on HFCs with a GWP of over 2500 has got through. The ban will start in 2020 but there is thought to be an allowance for the use of recycled/reclaimed refrigerant until 2030.

In what will be a boost for those promoting CO2 systems, HFCs with a GWP of 150 or more will be banned in multipack centralised refrigeration systems of 40kW or more from 2022, with the exception of when they are being used in the primary circuit of cascade systems where GWPs of under 1500 will be allowed.

HFCs with a GWP greater than 2500 will be banned in all other stationary refrigeration equipment in 2020 (with an exemption for very low temp applications under -50ºC).

While virtually all new domestic refrigerators in Europe use hydrocarbons, the proposed revision now bans the use of HFCs with a GWP 150 or more by 2015.

HFCs will be  banned in portable air conditioners from 2020.

Mitsubishi Electric is one of the leading Japanese manufacturers to have introduced wall-mounted R32 units

The major Japanese manufacturers have already lined-up R32 as a replacement for R410A in small splits

It’s also the end for R410A in small split air conditioners. From 2025 F-gases with a GWP of 750 or more will be banned in all single splits containing less than 3kg.

The proposed ban on pre-charged equipment was dropped in favour of a “traceability” system which aims to track HFCs in imported equipment.

Industry group EPEE welcomed the new rules.

“I am proud that our committed industry has shown progressiveness and has always supported ambitious environmental rules on F-gases through a cap-and phase down,” said EPEE director general Andrea Voigt. “The phase-down will steer innovation and help industry to move towards alternative solutions in a safe and efficient way.”

“We are also pleased that the rules have been concluded in First Reading, as our members will now have the regulatory certainty to ensure long-term business planning – all of which will ultimately benefit the EU economy,” she added

Progressive

The London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and Brussels-based European Environmental Bureau (EEB) described the agreement as “a progressive and encouraging victory in the wider fight against climate change, despite disappointment that extensive negotiations had failed to agree earlier and stronger bans.”

“Naturally, we would prefer more bans with fewer loopholes as these are the most effective method of preventing greenhouse gas emissions and there is overwhelming evidence that they would be feasible and cost-efficient,” said Clare Perry, head of EIA’s Global Environment Campaign.

“Nevertheless, this is the beginning of the end for HFCs in Europe – at least now the industries involved will be able to see which way the wind is blowing and invest in cleaner, greener alternatives.”

Susanna Williams, climate and energy policy officer at the EEB, added: “It is regrettable that certain countries were unwilling to listen to the best evidence available and instead chose to side with the interests of the chemical industry and HFC equipment manufacturers. Despite this, we are pleased that legislators agreed bans in some key areas that will boost low-carbon innovation in Europe. The immediate focus now will be on the effective implementation of the legislation.”

European air conditioning and refrigeration contractors group AREA also welcomed the agreement, commenting that it would provide certainty to the industry and would enable  it to plan its decisions and investments accordingly.

“The revision of the F-Gas Regulation has mobilised AREA and its members in the past four years and I am glad this process has managed to come to a positive end. Refrigeration, air-conditioning and heat pump contractors will play their unbiased role towards end users for a safe and efficient gradual transition to alternative solutions,” said AREA President Graeme Fox.

The Political agreement will now need to be formally endorsed by both the European Parliament and the Council. After this the rules should become applicable from 2015.

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