GERMANY: F-gas phase-down experts have warned of the necessity to avoid using high GWP refrigerants now or the consequences for industry could be severe.
Speaking at yesterday’s ASERCOM/EPEE symposium on the eve of Chillventa, Cornelius Rhein of the European Commission, who was heavily involved in formulating the new F-gas regulations, raised the chilling fact of what the phase-down means in simple mathematical terms.
“If you consider, today, average GWP is 2000 and you know that in 2030 the overall amount will be reduced to 21% you come to an average GWP of around 400,” he explained. “A solution using a refrigerant with a GWP of 700, for instance, may not be good enough unless the other sectors move quicker.”
He stressed that it would be important to move fast in applications where it is easy to adopt alternatives in order to give sufficient flexibility to sectors were finding a suitable, safe and energy efficient alternative is more difficult.
“Responsible decisions have to be made,” he warned.
The UK’s Ray Gluckman, who has also been heavily involved with the F-gas regulations, admitted a personal feeling of relief that Parliament had finally agreed the new amendments.
“We have a lot of technologies near the market and without a regulation it would have been very hard for companies, be they chemical producers or equipment producers, to really make the big investments they need to make with any certainty,” he said. “The regulation gives us clarity and that is stimulating investment.
“The rest of the world now needs to look think very hard about coming on board with something the same or very similar.”
But he also warned of potential pitfalls on the horizon, particularly with regard to the phase-down timetable.
“In the first three years I do fear that there will be a lack of drive from the phase down,” he warned. We have one year with a 100% cap and two years following that with 93%. But then in 2018 we have a 37% cut. And that 37% cut is actually a 48% cut, in a way, because the year before 2018 the rules on pre-charged equipment kick-in – and the service ban is in 2020.”
In 2017 over 17 million tonnes CO2eq (over 10% of the total CO2eq) which is contained in pre-charged equipment imported into the EU, must fit under the existing cap. In 2017, all pre-charged equipment that comes into the EU must use refrigerant purchased from existing quota-holders. No additional quota will be made available for this pre-charged refrigerant, making it, in effect, an extra and earlier quota reduction.
“2018 and 2019 could be tough years if the big users, the industrial and supermarket users, don’t start moving out of R404A sooner rather than later,” said Ray Gluckman.
“In order to achieve the phase down we are going to have to do a lot of things differently,” he explained. “The service ban will kick off the early savings within phase down. New low GWP in new equipment will take a few years before it starts to make an impact. We obviously need to start avoiding the very high GWP refrigerants like R404A as soon as possible.
He also called for better education on using the new gases: “We need to understand the operating envelope of some of the new refrigerants because all of the new gases are more difficult to use. Safety, energy efficiency and cost are critical.
“I think a key to the future is to be brave about the word mildly flammable. There is a massive difference between the ease of igniting the hydrocarbons and igniting something like R32 or 1234yf. But we don’t know enough about those yet. We need to get to know those blends and those fluids better and improve our understanding and we need standards.”