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US to ban higher GWP HFC refrigerants

USA: All common higher GWP HFC refrigerants including R134a, R404A and R410A will be banned in most new refrigeration and air conditioning applications from 2025 under new US EPA proposals.

The new proposals, announced yesterday under under the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act, apply both to imported and domestically manufactured products. They include a 700 GWP limit on chillers and residential and light commercial air conditioning and heat pump systems from January 1 2025. 

Retail food refrigeration systems would be limited to a GWP of 300 from January 1, 2025, with some product sectors, such as stand-alone units and supermarket systems with refrigerant charges of 200lb (91kg) or more, limited to GWPs of 150 from the same date.

Phase down

The AIM Act was enacted in December last year and authorises the EPA to phase down the production and consumption of HFCs, maximise their reclamation and minimise releases from equipment, while facilitating the transition to next-generation technologies through sector-based restrictions. 

This latest proposed rule focuses on the third area – the transition to alternatives through sector-based restrictions. The AIM Act directs EPA to phase down the production and consumption of HFCs by 85% by 2036 in line with the schedule in the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol.

The proposed rule would prohibit manufacture and import of products containing restricted HFCs by January 1, 2025, in most cases, and would prohibit the sale, distribution, and export of products containing restricted HFCs a year later, which in most cases would be January 1, 2026.

The estimated additional emission reductions of the rule are up to 903 million tonnes of CO₂-equivalent by 2050, with net climate benefits of up to $56.3bn. 

“With this latest proposal under the bipartisan AIM Act, EPA continues to advance President Biden’s ambitious climate agenda while investing in American innovation and ingenuity,” said EPA Administrator Michael S Regan. 

“This proposal will support a transition away from super-pollutant HFCs in key sectors of our economy while promoting American leadership in manufacturing of new climate-safe products, making our nation more globally competitive and delivering significant environmental and economic benefits.”

Ambitious

Environmental group the Environmental Investigation Agency described the proposals as “ambitious and comprehensive”, with spokesperson Christina Starr saying: “This rule is nothing short of critical for the US to meet its climate commitments under the Montreal Protocol by transitioning these sectors to less harmful alternatives.” 

The EPA analysis insists that the ruling would have net negative compliance costs for the industry but admits that it is likely the costs for HFCs will increase. However, the EPA insists that for the RACHP sector, the cost of refrigerant is less than 1% of the entire cost of the system, and the highest costs come from raw materials such as copper, steel, and aluminium that are used to make the equipment. It also notes that in most cases, with newer, more efficient refrigerants, less refrigerant is necessary in the finished product.

The draft rule will be open for public comment for 45 days.

The full proposal document can be found here with an EPA fact sheet here.

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