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We need to be proud of our systems

Following the first Real Zero open meeting hosted by IOR where all parts of the supply chain met to discuss the issue of leakage, some key drivers of change have been identified:

  1. Legislation and Regulation - “It is our duty to tell people the consequences of not reducing leakage now, because fines and taxes and potentially an outright ban on HFCs will happen in the future,” says Barry Lyons of BOC.
  2. Increased profile of the issue - equipment owners have a growing awareness both of direct and indirect CO2 emissions due to refrigeration and the willingness to reduce them. “We need to be proud of the systems we install” says Bob Arthur of Marks & Spencer.
  3. New technology – the availability of new solutions, components and most importantly the mounting evidence that reductions are achievable.
  4. Customer satisfaction –offer better value for money and improve the relationship between customer and supplier.
  5. Training – increase awareness of the need for improved skills in a changing market and the wider availability of training material of all types.

Professor Graeme Maidment summed up one of the main strengths of the REAL Zero approach:  “Much of the debate today centred on ‘Whose problem is it? Who is going to pay? Who is responsible if it isn’t done?’ But the answer is more basic than this - Leakage is everyone’s problem, and it’s up to all of us to solve it.”

The solutions are not difficult technically but will require a number of fundamental changes at each stage of the process:

  1. Effective maintenance – this is key to reducing leakage on existing systems, it must meet legal standards but should also ensure proper reporting to owners and continuity of care
  2. Design standards – making sure that the good practices already existing are implemented. “We can build plants that are leak tight, since we do it all the time in ammonia plant”, says Barry Lyons, BOC
  3. Competence- qualifications and training are important, but so is checking those qualifications and actual standards of work.. “Industry needs to think about the long term advantages of training personnel – not just to meet their short term legal requirements,” says Steve Ward of HRP
  4. Greater emphasis on whole life costing – decision-making based on reliable lifetime costs of new systems rather than initial cost.
  5. Working together – accepting that everyone has a shared responsibility at every stage.
  6. Changing mindsets - a willingness to do things differently. “If you think things are going to be the same in the next 5-10 years you are kidding yourself.  Industry must rise to the challenge” says David Blackhurst of Star Technical Solutions.

Below are some of the good ideas and practical solutions for the next stage that came out of the Birmingham meeting.If you don’t agree with these, why not comment on them or propose your own or at the website: www.realzero.org.uk.

  • Share the learning from ammonia systems, where leakage is not tolerated
  • HFCs should have a stanching agent
  • Engineers should use torque wrenches for all refrigerants, not just R410a
  • Flare joints should be removed wherever possible from existing systems
  • Insulated pipework should have the location of joints clearly marked
  • The whole industry needs to adopt regular assessment to BRA or CITB brazing standards - it is not just for apprentices
  • Create a standard design and performance template for systems by application, as a checklist against what is in place or being proposed
  • Develop a means of identifying refrigerant loss at an earlier stage, so that this can be addressed before the six- monthly leak check.