Environmental Bulletin - Refrigerants
Prima ACR pride themselves on their excellent service record.
What needs to be done and when?
The European Union’s F-gas Regulation No 842/2006 became law on 4th July 2006 and many of the requirements came into force on 4th July 2007 however, some of these requirements are still awaiting clarification from the Commission.
F-gasses include all HFC refrigerants, such as R134a, and blends containing F Gasses such as R407c, R410A, R404A. If you are handling, recovering, supplying, installing, manufacturing or own equipment containing HFC refrigerants in stationary equipment you now have new legal obligations under the F Gas Regulations.
- Phase out HCFC's (e.g. R22) on a year-by-year percentage sliding scale until the end of 2009 when production ceases. Between 2010 and 2015, only recycled HCFC’s may be used in existing equipment.
The European Community, through the European Parliament, is almost certainly going to accelerate the phase out of “virgin” HCFC’s from 2010 possibly earlier, and as HCFC’s (e.g.R22) have started to be phased out this means that R22 will become increasingly scarce and hence its price will rise. Customers are now using HFC's on new installations, be it refrigeration or air conditioning.
The majority of manufacturers have now converted to offering equipment using HFC’s as an alternative. Isceon 59 is popular as a “drop-in” alternative on existing air conditioning/high temperature refrigeration equipment using R22 as the refrigerant.
Operators must ensure that each system is checked for leaks:
- At least annually if more than 3kg charge (hermetically sealed more than 6kg)
- At least once every six months if over 30kg. If they have an automatic leakage detection system they need only be checked every 12 months.
- Automatic leakage detection systems must be installed on applications with 300kg or more, and these systems should be checked every 6 months.
- If a leak is detected and repaired, a further check must be carried out on the repair site within up to one month to ensure that the repair has been effective.
- Operators must maintain records of refrigerant in equipment with a charge of 3kg or more (if hermetic, 6kg or more). Records to be made available to the competent authority on demand.
- Relevant information specifically identifying the separate stationary equipment of applications containing more than 30kg of F Gas must be maintained by the operator.
- Systems with CFC's (e.g. R11, R12, R502) should be discussed with us immediately on an individual basis.
- There are refrigerant “drop-in” replacements available (e.g. Isceon 59), but these can only be considered as short/medium term alternatives.
The following refrigerants should be used for new installations:
- Air conditioning R407C / R410A
- High temperature refrigeration R407C / R134A / R404A
- Low temperature refrigeration R404A
ALTERNATIVES TO HCFC’s AND HFC's (e.g. R407C, R134A AND R410A)
At present there is little alternative to either HCFC or HFC usage.
- Principally propane or butane gas.
- Obvious flammability and explosion potential!
- Hence installation techniques would need to be improved with possible regulation or certification etc.
- Possible longer term solution, providing the equipment is available and installation techniques are improved.
- Not practical for large systems at the present time (Jan-11).
Not particularly attractive due to:
- Higher CO2 emissions from primary energy source (per kW cooling) than conventional vapour compression systems.
- Less flexibility for installation (in particular small scale).
- Capital and running costs per kW cooling higher than conventional vapour compression systems.
WATER / AIR
These are technically feasible but they have very poor thermal storage or phase change characteristics, so the quantity required compared with more conventional systems is much greater, therefore plant is larger and efficiencies are poorer. Hence production of CO2 could actually be worse!
FACTS ABOUT R407C
- R407C is a blend of refrigerants.
- R32 (23%), R125 (25%) R134A (52%)
- If it escapes to atmosphere it has an ozone depletion potential (ODP) of zero, compared to R22, which has an ODP of 0.055 (using R11 as a base of 1).
- On direct release to atmosphere, R407C has a GWP equivalent to 1610kg CO2 equivalent per kgR407c compared to 1700kg CO2 equivalent per kgR22 for R22. So if it escapes to atmosphere it directly contributes to global warming (climate change).
- Due to temperature “glide” it is important that equipment is optimised for its use to maintain operating efficiency, otherwise greater energy is used to produce the same quantity of cooling. Greater energy use could mean it has a worse indirect global warming effect than R22 or other similar refrigerants!
- Using R407C could actually be less environmentally friendly if equipment is not optimised for its use!
- R407C must not be contaminated with oil commonly used in R22 systems and hence is not a “drop-in” replacement. The necessary system clean ups are not competitive.
FACTS ABOUT R410A
- R410A is an equal blend of hydrofluorocarbon or HFC compounds, comprising 50% of R32 and 50% of R125 it has no chlorine content, no ozone depletion potential, and only a modest global warming potential – ODP = 0, GWP 1890.
- It operates at much higher pressure than R22 or R407C and hence this puts greater emphasis on the equipment selection and the quality of the installation. The system must be tested to at least 30 bar (440 psi!).
- It also needs to be used on optimised equipment. Hence it is not a “drop-in” replacement. Separate and segregated gauges, charging machines etc are required.
HFC’S ARE ONLY A SHORT TERM REFRIGERANT
It is not intended as a long-term replacement gas. It is likely that HFC’s will also be banned because of their GWP (climate change potential). Such gases are already being phased out in Germany and Denmark and these are already committed to phase out R22 before the Montreal Protocol requires.
Who can tell the future? If HFC’s are phased out before a long term alternative is found there could be some very profound changes in the industry just around the corner.