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Charting real progress

There was much to discuss at the Real Skills Europe Network event, with refrigerant leak reduction, usage tracking and the F-Gas proposal at the top of the delegates’ agenda.

There was a real sense of progress at the Real Skills Europe (RSE) and Real Zero practitioner event, held in December, with various industry sectors demonstrating the progress being made in both leakage reduction and lowering emissions.

Kicking off proceedings was IOR president elect and chair of RSE steering group Graeme Maidment, who highlighted that costs and cost savings, together with legislation, would drive the industry forward, ultimately making it more efficient.

He said: “The cost of leakage financially is significant when all the factors such as maintenance, energy loss and refrigerant cost are considered. If we can address the issue at its core, and make people understand the impact, not just on the environment but on their businesses, the message will be easy to absorb.”

Asda head of refrigeration Brian Churchyard stressed leak reduction was at the heart of Asda’s fridge policy, and that the F-Gas regulation had helped add direction to the company’s refrigeration strategy.

“When I first joined, there was little definition regarding which route we should take. What F-Gas has done is give a structure to work around, as certain criteria have to be satisfied. This enables us to plan and define our strategy accordingly.

“Our policy is based around simple but effective principles that gain results in the real world. Measuring is critical to deciding which way we want to go. All businesses are different, so you can’t just follow someone else’s lead, you have to prove it in the real world, based on your requirements.

“One of our key principles is based on inclusive management. We involve all our technical partners – designers, installers, service engineers and so on – to ensure harmony with everything we do. For example, if we are looking to bring in new cabinets we will consult with everyone to ensure we are making the right decision, and that all parties are involved and are aware of our strategy.

“We also leak test at every store once a month, to ensure there is  an on-going commitment to reducing energy consumption and emissions. This has worked particularly well.”

James Bailey of Abbey Design Associates, which works with Asda, added that leakage across the retailer’s estate now stands at an average of 7.9 per cent, compared with 54 per cent in 2000, while store numbers in that period have grown from 248 to 564. Mr Bailey said: “Concentrating on high loss areas, combined with monthly inspections has driven these results.”

Keeping track

Tracking refrigerant purchases to gain a clear picture of usage was highlighted by Andrew Faulkner of HRP, which offers a tracking service via scanning of a cylinder’s barcode – posting the data online for its customers to view.

“This facility offers a ‘cradle to grave’ facility, so they can see where exactly the delivery is going, how quickly it’s being used and returned, etc. We can also add extra columns, such as the engineer’s name, who and where it’s issued to, and so on.”

New refrigerants were also on  the agenda with Rob Kebby of Honeywell, who highlighted the benefits of the company’s range of HFOs, which will become a real option with the imminent start of the HFC phase-down.

Mr Kebby said: “The Honeywell Solstice range is gaining real results in the market thanks to low GWP levels. And we are working with compressor manufacturers to assess the benefits, while out in the field we are already working with Waitrose on their first HFO plant.

“With the F-Gas proposal yet to be finalised, many will think it’s business as usual. This approach is not an option. If you snooze you lose – now is the time to plan switching to new refrigerants before you’re left behind.”

Mike Nankivell, chairman of ACRIB F-Gas Working Group provided an overview of where the industry is currently at with F-Gas, and the impact of the recently released review.

Mr Nankivell said: “F-Gas is working. There’s now more professionalism and awareness. Already there’s been a 20 per cent reduction rate in UK retail businesses, while regular inspections and maintenance is now accepted as a necessity.

“However, though a phase-down is imminent, we have to make sure that demand for F-gases is met by supply. RAC applications make up 90 per cent of overall demand, and this usage should be considered to complement the phase-down.

“The downside of this will mean a switch to alternative refrigerants, which will include low and high flammables, high pressure or toxic types. So the questions have to be asked: ‘Are the standards in place? Is there a lack of experience? Will there be increased cost to switching? And will there be an impact on energy efficiency?’.”

Fazed by phase-down?

Finally, Ray Gluckman from SKM Enviros asked: “Is the industry ready for a phase-down?”

He observed that there had been a concerted effort in all end-user sectors to get up to speed with the regulations, backed by the introduction of new fluids into some markets to ease transition. However, he admitted that ideally there should be a ‘carrot and stick’ approach to encourage switching.

He also stressed that companies should take action regarding refrigerant usage immediately based on the F-Gas review’s proposals. “I would say to everyone who is using R404A/R507 in new systems to stop using it now and plan for an alternative.” 

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