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Glass full on Brexit and refrigerants

Outgoing president Steve Gill (left) hands over to new president Kevin Glass

UK: New IoR president Kevin Glass has suggested fast-track border arrangements for critical equipment such as refrigeration and air conditioning plant in the event of a hard Brexit.

In a wide ranging inaugural speech tonight, the new president, whose two year term of office will span Brexit and the formative years of the UK’s divorce from Europe, described Brexit as one of the most important issues facing our industry.

“It is vital that frictionless borders are retained, in as far as this is possible, post Brexit. Our ability to maintain the nation’s critical cooling infrastructure depends on the vital flow of equipment, components and services,” he said.

He warned of the potential negative impact of a so-called hard Brexit, and the interruption to flows of goods and materials at our borders.

“The nation’s food chain, medicine and healthcare, critical industries and our ability to maintain our cities as productive places to live and work, all depend on an efficient and fully functioning refrigeration economy,” he added.

“We all know the importance of speed in dealing with cooling plant breakdowns. The nation simply cannot afford the cost and disruption to vital services that would ensue if vital replacement plant was routinely quarantined at the docks awaiting processing of paperwork. If workable customs practices for trade post-Brexit can’t be agreed, there is a strong argument for special fast-track arrangements for critical equipment such as refrigeration and air conditioning plant, on grounds of national security and the economic well-being of the nation.”

The new president also dealt with the problem of attracting young people into the industry and the need to embrace the digital age and so-called intelligent plant.

Again, refrigerants was also an inevitable topic. As the MD of Bitzer UK, the UK subsidiary of the German compressor manufacturer, Kevin Glass and his colleagues are at the forefront of testing the multitude of new lower GWP refrigerants entering the market.

“We have a multiplicity of very similar fluids, with different names and designations, competing for attention as viable alternatives,” he noted. “It is not helpful, to say the least, and makes the task of testing and validation much more complex that it should be.

“In an ideal world, there is a strong case for commercial interests to be put aside, so that a much-reduced number of genuinely distinct alternatives could be thoroughly tested and sensible conclusions drawn in a reasonable timescale. The problem, of course, is that the stakes for the refrigerant producers are high, and there is under way a pitched battle for competitive advantage.”

While Kevin Glass was adamant that there is no yet to be discovered “silver bullet” solution in the search for lower GWP refrigerants, he suggested that recent developments and new formulations for refrigerants may turn out to be “silver-plated” bullets.

In a thinly-veiled reference to Solstice N41, Honeywell’s recently announced non flammable alternative to R410A, Glass said: “Just when the focus appeared to be narrowing, a new left-field option recently sprang into view and we have a new possibility on the table, and a new validation challenge.

The inclusion of the never previously used component CF3I in the new Honeywell gas presents its own problems.

“Whenever compounds not previously used in refrigeration and air conditioning are adopted, it inevitably involves a lot of uncertainty around materials compatibility. All that has yet to be worked through and this takes time. However, materials compatibility testing and validation have to be thorough and systematic; there really are no short cuts. Huge potential investments in plant and manufacturing infrastructure depend on it.

At this stage, and subject to proper evaluation, the best that can be said is that recent developments and new formulations for refrigerants may turn out to be silver-plated bullets. It could also open the door to other, potential new options in the future,” he added.

He described this as a “promising” area and acknowledged that it had generated “understandable excitement”.

“However, time will tell if this offers a genuine new way forward,” he said.

Related stories:

Honeywell announces R410A breakthrough – 26 June 2018
USA: Honeywell has announced the development of a new lower GWP non-flammable alternative to R410A in stationary air conditioning systems. Read more…

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