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HFC consumption increases but F-gas remains “on track”

DENMARK: Consumption of HFCs under the European F-gas regulations increased in 2020 for the first time, after consecutive annual decreases since 2015, according to official figures. 

The annual European Environment Agency report, published yesterday, reveals a 7% increase in hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) consumption in 2020 compared to 2019. Refrigeration and air conditioning continue to be the key applications for HFCs.

Despite the increase, the report maintains that the EU still remains “on track” under the F-gas regulations, with the amount of HFCs placed on the market being 4% below the limit in 2020.

The report, however, doesn’t take into account the amount of illegal HFC material on the market in 2020, which some groups have estimated to be as much as 30% of the legal quota. In fact, the EEA report continues to refer to the widely-reported incidences of illegal HFC imports as “alleged”.  

When comparing the gases with the highest GWPs for the years 2019 and 2020, there was a 12% increase for SF6, and, less relevant for overall F-gas supply in CO2e, an 8% increase for NF3 and an 18% decrease for PFCs.

Quota authorisations

The reserve of quota authorisations eligible to cover imports of refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pump equipment under the HFC phase-down continues to grow. The current size of the reserve accounts for about seven times the amount of such equipment imported in 2020 or 111% of the 2021 EU maximum quantity of HFCs.

The companies that did not fully use their quota counterbalanced the few cases of quota excedance by importers of bulk HFCs and equipment importers.

Following significant increases in the number of companies applying for quota up to 2019, the European Commission’s increased scrutiny of their legitimacy reduced the number of quota-holding companies by about 30% in 2020.

Reclaim and destruction

The quantities reported as reclaimed F-gases increased by about 6% in volume compared with 2019 while decreasing by 9% in GWP. This was reported to be mostly driven by a decrease in SF6 reclamation (-42%). While reclaimed HFCs increased by 8% in tonnes, there was a decrease of 1% in GWP, mostly based on a decrease in R404A and an increase in R134a.

Reclaimed HFCs now account for 11% of EU production of virgin HFCs, or 3% of total EU HFC supply (or 10% and 4%, respectively, as CO2e). HFCs account for 97% of the reclaimed amounts.

Destruction and feedstock use of F-gases is mainly reported for HFCs. The amounts destroyed decreased by 24% in 2020 after more than doubling the year before. HFC amounts used as feedstock for chemical production processes have increased by 11% compared to 2019. 

The full report can be accessed here.

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