20 December 2016 | Darron Baile
Darron Baile of Brita Vivreau explains how FMs can prepare for the EU's crackdown on F gas in refrigeration, air conditioning and fire protection systems.
The 2014 EU fluorinated greenhouse gas (F gas) regulation replaces the 2006 regulation. It applies to a group of super greenhouse gases known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) used in refrigeration, air-conditioning and fire protection equipment.
F gases are being phased out because of their global warming potential (GWP). From 2020, HFCs with a GWP of more than 2,500 will be banned in all refrigeration systems, and from 2022, all F gases with GWP of more than 150 will be banned as the refrigerator or foam blowing agent in any hermetically sealed system. The EU is also reducing the availability of HFCs by 79 per cent between 2015 and 2030.
FMs who operate or service and maintain equipment using F gases need to heed the following advice to meet these new obligations. These changes are not exclusive to the EU but part of a wider global trend; don't assume that they won't apply post-Brexit. Moreover, as environmental responsibility moves up the agenda, it will improve the CSR credentials of businesses.
Will you need to change from your existing gas?
FMs will not need to change a refrigeration system if it does not contain an HFC or if it contains an HFC with a GWP score below 2,500. It is not compulsory to change non-refrigeration equipment containing an HFC with GWP 2,500 or more. The same goes for refrigeration equipment containing an HFC with GWP 2,500 or more that has received an exemption from the service and maintenance ban (e.g. owing to size or process temperature). But this does pose a risk because of potential HFC supply shortages or cost increases in the future.
Refrigeration systems containing an HFC with GWP 2,500 or more (e.g. R404A) that does not meet any requirements of service and maintenance ban exemptions will be affected by both the 2020 service maintenance ban and the cap and phase down.
What are your options for switching gases?
Users can plan to replace or retrofit the equipment before 2020 but continue to operate 'as is' at present. Users can also plan to use reclaimed or recycled HFCs post-2020 to maintain their system. The level of risk of this strategy will depend on the availability of reclaimed gas - this is particularly high-risk for gases other than R404A and R507.
An alternative option would be to install a new system. New, highly efficient refrigeration and air conditioning technologies designed to operate using low GWP refrigerant gases are being developed. As these provide both energy efficiency and environmental benefits, it can make good economic sense to replace your existing system.
Suppliers are ensuring that new equipment complies with the new legislation.
Carbon dioxide (R744) is largely seen as the best alternative to HFCs for refrigeration systems, demonstrating high refrigeration capacity, non-toxic, non-flammable, atmospheric gas, low critical temperature and energy efficiency. Use of CO2 as a refrigerant for drinks dispensers and building units is ongoing. Moreover, CO2 heat pumps are now a maturing technology and significant research is being carried out to develop technology for other CO2 applications.
Getting your house in order
To find out if their equipment contains F gases, FMs should consult with the company that installed the equipment, or analyse the manual or labels that came with the equipment.
It is common for F gases to be present in refrigeration systems such as those used to cool a building's drinking water. In these systems, it is HFC404A and HFC134A that you are looking out for. For air conditioning and heat pump systems, look out for HFC 404A and HFC 410A and for fire protection systems, HFC 23 and HFC 227ea.
Labelling equipment and keeping records is essential. It is compulsory to add a label if F gas is added to refrigeration, fire protection or air conditioning equipment when it is being installed. The label must state that the equipment contains an F gas and the industry name for the F gas.
Only trained technicians can work on equipment containing F gases, from installation and general maintenance to testing for leaks and disposing of the product when it is no longer needed - anyone working on your equipment must have the appropriate qualifications.