EPA proposes approval of hydrocarbons
USA: The US Environmental Protection Agency has proposed four hydrocarbon refrigerants be approved for use in six refrigeration and air conditioning applications.
The announcement officially confirms reports first revealed by the Cooling Post in February that ethane (R170), isobutane (R600a), propane (R290), and the hydrocarbon blend R-441A (a blend of all three plus butane) would be added to the SNAP (Significant New Alternatives Policy) programme. The new proposal also includes the low GWP HFC R32.
According to the EPA, the new proposal is in support of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and will increase the options for refrigerants in the United States that offer better climate protection without harming the ozone layer.
Under the authority of the Clean Air Act, EPA’s SNAP programme evaluates substitute chemicals and technologies that are safe for the ozone layer. The EPA says this proposed action “would expand the list of SNAP-approved substitutes to include more low GWP alternatives to replace both ozone-depleting substances and high-GWP HFCs.” It also notes that these refrigerants are already in use in Europe and Asia.
After receiving input from industry, environmental groups, and others, EPA is proposing to list additional low GWP hydrocarbon refrigerants in six refrigeration and air conditioning applications: stand-alone commercial and household refrigerators and freezers; very low temperature refrigeration; non-mechanical heat transfer; vending machines; and room air conditioning units.
In addition to adding these climate friendly alternatives, EPA is also revising the current venting prohibition to account for four of these substitutes, as current evidence suggests that their venting, release, or disposal does not pose a threat to the environment.
The use conditions would set requirements to ensure that these substitutes do not present significantly greater risk in the end-use than other substitutes that are currently or potentially available.
All of the end-uses proposed in the rule are for stationary refrigeration or air conditioning. The EPA has previously listed only three low global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants as acceptable subject to use conditions for motor vehicles: R152a, R1234yf, and R744.
The EPA proposes to list isobutane and the hydrocarbon blend R441A as acceptable substitutes in new stand-alone commercial retail refrigerators and freezers under a number of specific use conditions. It follows the European regulations in limiting the refrigerant charge to 150gm in new equipment designed specifically and clearly identified for the refrigerant. It will also not allow the alternatives to be used as a retrofit in existing equipment.
The EPA proposes to list ethane as acceptable in very low temperature refrigeration equipment and in non-mechanical heat transfer, subject to the same use conditions as described above for isobutane and R-441A in stand-alone commercial refrigerators and freezers.
Propane is proposed to be listed for use in household refrigerators and freezers and combination refrigerator/freezers subject to a charge limit of 57g in each circuit. Again, it is only proposed for use in new equipment specifically designed and clearly identified for the refrigerant and not as a retrofit.
R441A, isobutane and propane are proposed as acceptable substitutes in vending machines, subject to the same use conditions described above.
Propane, R32 and R441A are proposed for use in residential and light commercial air conditioning, for self-contained room air conditioners, including packaged terminal air conditioners and packaged terminal heat pumps, window air conditioning units, and portable ac units designed for use in a single room.
Again, they are only for use in new equipment specifically designed for that gas and not as a retrofit in existing equipment. Proposals are that charge limits will be subject to compliance with those set down in UL Standard 484.
In all the above cases equipment designs must meet specific UL requirements and there are strict requirements for pipes, hoses, or other devices through which the refrigerant passes, to be marked to indicate the use of a flammable refrigerant. These also apply to service ports and other parts of the system where servicing might take place. There are also specifications for the inclusion of warning signs at specific points in the system and in the operating/service manual.
EPA will accept comment on the proposal for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register.
The proposal document is available here.
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