PFAS ban affects most refrigerant blends
EUROPE: The banning of just five refrigerants under the new PFAS regulation proposals would lead to the banning of virtually all the current lower GWP HFC/HFO alternative refrigerant blends.
Excluding the current refrigerant blends that are already banned in Europe for containing CFCs or HCFCs, only 13 of the remaining 106 current ASHRAE-listed R400 series blends would escape a PFAS ban. Those 13 outside of the scope are predominantly hydrocarbon blends. Of the 500 series blends, only two, both hydrocarbon blends, are outside of the scope.
The non-exhaustive list of fluorinated gases compiled by five European countries – Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Denmark – and published last week by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), is part of a joint restriction proposal under the European REACH regulations.
The inclusion in the potential banned list of single component gases R125, R134a, R143a and the HFOs R1234yf and R1234ze(E) affects virtually all new and current lower GWP HFC/HFO refrigerant blends.
While R134a is no longer employed as a single component in new domestic and commercial refrigeration equipment in Europe and its use in chillers is disappearing under pressure from the F-gas regulations, it remains an important component in many lower GWP alternative blends.
The HFOs R1234yf and R1234ze(E), along with R1233zd(E) (also included on the list), are also currently being offered as single refrigerant options in chillers by a number of leading manufacturers.
R32 not in scope
The most significant refrigerant falling outside the PFAS definition is R32, now commonly used in smaller air conditioning systems.
R23, still used in low temperature refrigeration applications, is also excluded from the proposed restrictions. Despite its important application in low temperature refrigeration, this gas is already under pressure from the F-gas regulations due to its very high GWP of 18,400. A number of lower GWP alternative blends have been developed but, ironically, these all contain components that would be banned under the proposed PFAS restrictions. However, the proposals do contain some suggested exemptions for low temperature applications.
R152a also falls outside the PFAS definition. It has potential for certain applications and is being used in blends but has previously been rejected as a single component refrigerant due to its A2 flammability.
The list of single component refrigerants defined as PFAS are:
The potential bans on these single component gases affect the vast majority of refrigerant blends, some of which are already banned under the European F-gas regulations or under restrictions due to their high GWPs.
Others affected include the following (some have proposed exemptions for certain applications):
GWP1774. Replacement for R22 in AC equipment.
As above. HFC retrofit alternative to R22. GWP 1550.
A1 replacement for R22 and R404A in low and medium temperature applications. Its GWP is 1824
R22 retrofit replacement in refrigeration systems with limited modifications. It has a GWP of 1495.
Needs no introduction as a major refrigerant in larger AC systems.
A replacement for R22, with a GWP under 350.
Blends with differing ratios of R32, R1234ze and R600.
Honeywell’s Solstice N40 for new and retrofit retail food refrigeration (refrigerated food processing and dispensing equipment). GWP 1387.
(HFC32 /HFC125 /HFC134a/HFO1234yf)
Chemours’ Opteon XP40 for new and retrofit retail food refrigeration (refrigerated food processing and dispensing equipment). GWP 1400.
An Arkema blend similar to R449A, with a GWP 1410.
Has been used in supermarkets in cascade systems with CO2. A GWP of around 601.
Sold by Chemours as Opteon XP44, R452A has a GWP of around 2141. Actively promoted as a “drop-in” conversion for R404A in refrigerated transport and commercial refrigeration
A rival to R32 as an alternative to R410A, R452B is an A2L gas with a GWP of 676.
Chemours’ Opteon XL40, an A2L refrigerant with a GWP of 239 for non-hermetic refrigeration applications (excluding multi-compressor retail and food service applications of 40kW or greater cooling capacity).
Chemours R454B is a lower flammability A2L refrigerant blend with a GWP of 466. Adopted by some major manufacturers for chillers and rooftop units.
Developed and marketed by Honeywell as Solstice L40X for commercial refrigeration. R455A is an A2L has a GWP of just 146 for commercial refrigeration
Koura’s Klea 456A, a non-flammable refrigerant with a GWP of 626. Touted as a drop-in for R134a in mobile AC systems.
Developed by Weiss Technik, a German environmental test chamber manufacturer. An R23 replacement with a GWP of 1357 for low temperature applications.
Koura gas with a GWP of 1830 for low temperature applications.
R508B is a blend of R23 and the perfluorocarbon R116. A high GWP of 13,396 with applications in low temperature refrigeration.
Manufactured and marketed by Chemours as Opteon XP10. A non-flammable A1 blend with a GWP of around 630. Uses in chillers and heat pumps.
R513B has been developed for chiller applications. GWP of 596.
Developed by Chemours and marketed as Opteon XP30, R514A is designed as a replacement for R123 in centrifugal chiller applications.
Replacement for R134a in new chiller applications. An A1, non-flammable refrigerant blend with a GWP of 293.
Although not specifically mentioned in the PFAS proposal document, the definitions could also affect:
Developed by Angelantoni Test Technologies, R472A is another lower GWP replacement for R23 in ultra low temperature applications.
Opteon XL20 low GWP (148) A2L alternative in refrigeration, air conditioning, dehumidification and heat pump applications.
Honeywell’s Solstice N41, the much vaunted but yet to be launched non-flammable replacement for R410A.
If accepted, the proposals would enter into force in 2025 and allow an 18-month transition period to alternatives. However, a number of exemptions are proposed for certain applications. These include recommended exemptions for refrigerants in HVACR equipment in buildings, where national safety standards and building codes prohibit the use of alternatives.
It also proposes a transition period of 18 months and a 12-year exemption for maintenance and refilling of existing HVACR equipment where drop-in alternatives are not available.
Exemptions are also proposed for low temperature refrigeration applications and refrigerants in laboratory test and measurement equipment and in refrigerated centrifuges.
The ban on PFAS refrigerants in low temperature refrigeration below -50ºC seeks a transition period of 18 months and a five-year exemption.
Laboratory test equipment and centrifuges would receive a 12-year exemption as no alternatives are currently available.
Koura gas escapes
One blend that would escape any PFAS ban is Koura’s new non-flammable refrigerant LFR3, which the refrigerant manufacturer has previously promoted as being suitable for a range of cooling applications including mobile air conditioning, heat pump systems, cold chain and transport refrigeration and commercial refrigeration.
Still awaiting its ASHRAE designation, LFR3 is a blend of CO2, R32 and R1132A, none of which fall under the PFAS definition. It is also said to be up to 20% more energy efficient than CO2 with 15-20% lower operating pressure.
It also has a GWP of 143 under AR4, tucking it neatly under the 150 GWP refrigerant limit now in place in Europe for certain applications.
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