Although already outlawed in Europe, and due to be phased out under the Montreal Protocol in the rest of the world by 2030, R22 is still widely used on ships for both air conditioning and refrigeration.
“R22 is a versatile and effective refrigerant gas that has served the shipping industry well, but it is fast approaching the end of the line,” commented Svenn Jacobsen, technical product manager refrigeration at Wilhelmsen Ships Service. “The compliance deadlines are approaching and this has, quite rightly, impacted tremendously on global production. As availability goes down price and supply risks go up, and this is potentially bad news for the owners of those remaining vessels that still use R22.”
Jacobsen points out that legal global R22 production this year will be only 10% of the volume produced in 1990 and that this will inevitably increase prices. He predicts that those who fail to switch to alternatives could see costs double over the course of the next year.
“When prices increase and/or availability shrinks, alternative and illegally produced products suddenly start appearing on the market,” he states. “This is happening already, and will only increase with demand.
“Gases are being smuggled into countries, mis-declared and counterfeited. The consequences of this can be serious for vessels, catastrophic for equipment, with adulterated refrigerant causing poor mechanical performance and breakdown, and potentially deadly for individuals.”
On the latter point Jacobsen refers to the US, where the FBI has noted that some unapproved refrigerants, many emanating from China, contain flammable propane.
The solution, Jacobsen says, is clear: “At the end of the day all vessels will have to find environmentally friendly alternatives to R22. In the meantime, those shipowners and operators that still require it must use reliable suppliers that can provide genuine refrigerant from approved producers. This is the only way to assure quality, standards of purity and worldwide compliance.”
He warns of heavy fines for not complying with regulations: “The EPA can assess fines of up to $37,000 a day for violations – and real risks to vessels and crews in not doing so. R22 is on its way out; the industry has to be aware of how it can bid farewell in the safest, securest and most appropriate manner.”