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HFC use down as EC meets to agree phase-outs

14616848_lEUROPE: As the negotiations get underway in Europe to phase-down HFCs, a new report suggests that European use of HFCs in air conditioning and refrigeration equipment is static and may be declining.

The tripartite negotiations on amendments to the F-gas regulations began yesterday in the EU after the Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER I) agreed on a mandate for the Lithuanian presidency.

The chair of COREPER I ambassador Arūnas Vinčiūnas noted, that reaching an agreement by co-legislators before the end of this year will allow early implementation of the F-gas Regulation amendment, including its phase down schedule. The Lithuanian presidency will now negotiate with Parliament with a view to agreeing what it describes as “a clear regulatory framework ensuring substantial reduction of fluorinated greenhouse gases in cost effective manner and at the same time giving clear signals for development to the industry.”

Current phase-out timetable proposals that F-gas emissions should be reduced in the order of 70-78% by 2050 and by 72-73% by 2030, along with suggested equipement bans, are likely to be met with stiff opposition.

The negotiators have sat down armed with latest figures from the European Environment Agency which suggest that the use of HFCs used in refrigeration and air conditioning equipment is declining. These latest figures which cover the production, import and export of fluorinated greenhouse gases in the European Union in 2012 show that although refrigeration and air conditioning is by far the largest market for F-gases (62%), their usage in this sector declined by just over 4% from 53,606 tonnes in 2011 to 51,392 tonnes last year. In terms of CO2 equivalents, however, the reduction was just 0.23%.

While the effects of the recession cannot be ignored, the production, import and export of HFCs for the refrigeration and air conditioning sector declined by around 25% from its peak in 2010 in terms of both tonnage and CO2 equivalents. HFCs for acr usage is down over 20% since 2007 and down over 13% in CO2 equivalents

Exports were relatively stable at 21,041 tonnes but down 8.5% on CO2 equivalents.

Refrigerants pre-charged in imported or exported equipment are not included in the figures.

For F-gases as a whole, which includes perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) in addition to HFCs, production appears to stabilise after a sharp decline from 2007 to 2010. While in metric tonnes, HFC production is dominant (above 90%), the share of SF6 and PFC is highly relevant when measured in CO2-equivalents. It has been gaining weight consistently since 2009. Imports of F-gases have been on the decline since 2008, with a dip in the ‘economic crisis’ year of 2009. Similar to production data, exports (when measured in metric tonnes) appear to stabilise after the sharp decline that was observed from 2007 to 2010. When measured in CO2-equivalents, however, 2011 and 2012 export levels exceed the 2007 starting point, mainly due to increasing SF6 exports. Finally, the longer-term trend for EU net supply shows a stabilisation at levels which are close to the ‘economic crisis’ year 2009. Quantitatively, PFCs are not significant for any of these parameters.

SF6 is of relatively minor relevance if expressed in metric tonnes (8% or less), but its very high GWP increases its contribution to the overall share when expressed in CO2 -equivalents. In GWP-weighted tonnes, SF6 in 2012 accounts for 55% of exports, 17% of net supply and (combined with PFCs) 47% of production. Imports were very much HFC‑based, with only 6% being SF6.

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