The startling figures for 2014, just released by the European Environment Agency, show that imports of HFC refrigerants into Europe almost doubled to 122,781 tonnes (260.9Mt CO2‑equivalent) in 2014, the year before quotas under the European F-gas regulations were introduced.
This huge stockpile is thought to be the reason why refrigerant prices, particularly for the higher GWP gases, have not risen as predicted by many industry experts.
While bulk imports of fluorinated gases had been declining from 2010 to 2013, HFC bulk imports in 2014 were approximately 90% above 2013 levels, both by mass and CO2‑equivalent.
The figures are based on submissions by companies on the production, import and export of fluorinated greenhouse gases in the European Union for 2014, the first year of compulsory reporting under the new F-gas regulation 517/2014.
Leaving aside the other fluorinated greenhouse gases (SF6, PFCs, etc), HFCs are said to account for about 95% of the increase in bulk imports and around 75% of all reported imports were destined for use as refrigerants for refrigeration, air conditioning and heating purposes.
Although supplies intended for use in air conditioning and refrigeration had been static or declining in recent years, 2014 saw a huge increase to 92,958 – a 73% increase on the previous year and a 36% increase on the peak year for HFC supply in 2010.
In contrast to the rise in imports, EU production of HFCs declined for the fourth consecutive year. Production measured in tonnes experienced a year-on-year decline of 15%, or 11% in terms of CO2‑equivalents, to 31,050 tonnes. Reportable HFC production in Europe was limited to just six HFCs – 134a, 365mfc, 143a, 32, 227ea and 23. The supply of the other 19 fluorinated gases used in the EU in 2014 was provided by imports.
Reporting of imports and production became compulsory in 2014 and led to a significant rise in reporting companies. For 2014, the number of reporting companies tripled compared with 2013 to 468. The European Environment Agency attributes the increase to the addition for the first time of importers of products and equipment containing reportable fluorinated gases and to new bulk importers of gases.