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European cooling bodies urge immediate end to R404A and R507A reliance

Brochure developed by AREA, EPEE, Asercom and EFCTC highlights importance of reclaimed, recycled and flammable refrigerants to address decreasing availability of higher GWP gas

AREA is among four major HVAC bodies calling on the European cooling industry to immediately stop installing R404A and R507A systems in order to meet stricter HFC quota restrictions that came into effect this year. The cuts in availability of these two refrigerants are part of ongoing efforts to cut down greenhouse gas emissions in phases as outlined under the 2015 EU F-Gas regulation.

The European air conditioning and refrigeration organisation has unveiled a new brochure that warns of an urgent need for action to protect against the impacts of ongoing reductions in F-Gas quota over the next three years. These market changes will also eventually lead to outright bans of some higher GWP products in refrigeration equipment.

The brochure, which is developed in collaboration with EFCTC, Asercom and the European Partnership for Energy and the Environment (EPEE), says installers must now end any reliance on R404A and R507A. which are becoming increasingly expensive to obtain. The publication argues that this switch can either be achieved through installing new equipment or retrofitting existing technology with lower GWP gas.

Other key recommendations for industry in the brochure include reducing leakages and charge sizes where possible, as well as ensuring the recovery and recycling of refrigerant. The recommendations are seen as an important step in dealing with price and supply pressures that are largely being felt to similar extents in all EU markets.

EPEE director general Andrea Voigt says, “The fact that four industry associations representing different parts of the HVACR sector – installers, OEMs, compressor manufacturers and gas producers – worked together on this leaflet is in itself a very strong message and will hopefully trigger the much-needed acceleration of the ‘phase-out’ of R404A and R507A.”

The F-Gas regulation phasedown, which is based around CO2 equivalent, is designed so that gases with high GWP ratings such as R404A and R507A will be hardest hit and de-incentivised. The brochure adds that a failure to curb use of these gases rapidly would impact the availability of other HFCs, such as blends, that make use of Higher GWP product as a component.

Reclaimed or recycled HFCs are not included in the phasedown, along with hydrocarbons, ammonia, CO2 and pure HFOs.

According to the brochure, recycled gas and refrigerant reclaimed within the EU is therefore expected to be an important factor in alleviating cost pressures facing the cooling industry as further quota cuts are introduced.

Alternatives

The brochure notes that alternative refrigerant is available on the market already, yet use of such products will require careful consideration over which types of gas will be most suitable for specific functions and how they can be used.

It states, “properties such as volumetric refrigerating capacity, pressure level, flammability and toxicity of the alternatives may differ significantly from their predecessors. Therefore, it is always important to check availability of components and compressor manufacturer approval. Safety is more important than ever as many of the R404A and R-507A alternatives are flammable.”

With more flammable gas offering lower GWP alternatives to the industry, four types of classification are currently in place for understanding the flammability of refrigerant.

These are:

  • A3 – Highly flammable
  • A2 – Flammable
  • A2L – Mildly flammable
  • A1 – Non-flammable

Products such as the A2L gas R32 is being put forward by a number of suppliers and equipment manufacturers as an alternative to increasingly expensive R404A and R507A. The increased offerings of R32 have required the industry to address potential safety concerns some end users have with even moderately flammable products.

A roundtable event held late last year by RAC Magazine on the issue of R32 adoption identified training and education programmes as an important factor in tackling possible concerns from customers about moving from higher GWP non-flammable products.

The brochure notes that relevant building codes and safety standards, as well as manufacturer installation instructions should always be followed when using gases with any form of flammability.

The publication says, “A main difference between the categories is the lower flammability limit (LFL) of the refrigerant. For example, with an A3 gas such as R-290, the LFL (in kg/m3) is nearly 8 times lower than with an A2L gas. Another difference is the burning velocity which is much lower with A2L gases than with A3.”

“In practical terms, it means that for example in occupied spaces far higher charge sizes are possible with A2L refrigerants than with A3.”

Further updates to the brochure will be made as a number of alternatives “currently under development” become commercially available.

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