EUROPE: With the forthcoming European ban on virgin R404A, refrigerant supplier A-Gas warns that installers and end users need to understand what’s happening and how it will affect their business.
From the beginning of next year, across Europe, there’ll be a ban on new stationary refrigeration equipment using refrigerants with a GWP greater than 2500. This rules out R404A with its GWP of 3922. In addition, it will also be illegal to service existing equipment with virgin refrigerant with a GWP greater than 2500 in systems where the charge is greater than 40 tonnes of CO2 equivalent. That’s equal to around 10kgs of R404A.
“Users of equipment still running on R404A could be forgiven for feeling confused with all these thresholds that mean you can service smaller equipment with virgin R404A but not larger equipment,” admits A-Gas commercial strategy director Dr Patrick Amrhein.
“If the system contains a charge of gas that’s more than 10kg of R404A the ban on servicing that equipment with virgin product will mean that an alternative low GWP refrigerant is needed. The good news is that this is not the only option as reclaimed R404A can be used up until 2030, regardless of the charge size.”
Two years of uncertainty in the European refrigerant market has made it obvious that the transition away from high GWP gases will require a mixture of new and reclaimed refrigerants.
While the market has to a large degree stabilised and there is now less pressure on supplies all the major refrigerant suppliers will say goodbye to virgin R404A this year.
“If contractors are looking to continue to use R404A for servicing, rather than a lower GWP alternative, it is now likely that they will be supplied with reclaimed R404A,” Dr Amrhein observed. “In this respect installers can be safe in the knowledge that reclaimed R404A will not lead them to breach the F-gas regulations as this reclaimed gas has the nod of approval from the regulators. You can be sure that reclaim will be a part of the refrigeration mix – along with the new generation of gases – for many years to come.”
However, more change is to come. In 2021 there’s another 18% step down, in absolute terms, taking the industry down to 45% of the 2015 baseline level.
“This is a significant drop and some market volatility is to be expected,” says Amrhein.
Then, in 2022, the bar for the use of virgin HFCs is raised even higher when the threshold drops from 2500 to 150 GWP for hermetically sealed equipment and multipack centralised refrigeration equipment above 40kW.
“With major changes on the way in the years following 2019 it is clearly not a time to ignore what’s to come,” Amrhein warns. “If you do need help don’t be afraid to ask the experts and your refrigerant suppliers are the best place to start.”