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Calls for action on R404A as BRA's guide to replacement refrigerants launches

Experts warn: ‘the slower people move out of R404A the more it will cost’

The British Refrigeration Association has published a guide to the options for replacing refrigerants such as R404A with lower-GWP versions, to meet the requirements of the F-Gas Regulation.

At the launch of the report Putting into Use Replacement Refrigerants, the experts involved in it emphasised the need for end users, and the companies that serve them, to devise replacement strategies sooner rather than later, in the wake of uncertainty over the availability and price of R404A  over the next two to three years.

The BRA said it hopes the guide, which goes into detail about what is required and what the attributes of the lower-GWP options are, will ‘give readers a firm foundation for developing a strategic response for their business’.

The report, set to be known by the acronym PURR, has been produced to provide practical guidance for the industry, rather than simply setting out the legislative requirements.

BRA President Mike Lawrence said: “There can be no doubt that spending money on dealing with the F-Gas regulation will not be welcomed by the financial directors by most businesses that are affected. However the PURR report gives a clear indication of possible approaches to dealing with the phase down of HFCs and the BRA hopes that this will support good practice.”

Mr Lawrence said the report had been produced in response to the challenges that industry would face with the combination of bans on higher-GWP refrigerants and market-driven price increases.

“There is a real risk that there will be refrigerant supply shortages and that virgin R404A availability may become limited, so existing R404A systems will have to be replaced or have a change of refrigerant. However there are so many of these systems in use now that many of them will have to rely on reclaimed or recycled refrigerant for servicing.”

Mr Lawrence added that the regulations would see a new emphasis placed on recovery and reclamation of the gas:  “Companies using R404A in their systems must ensure that the refrigerant is reclaimed and kept for future servicing. That is a very different approach to the one that we have been used to.”

He emphasised that creating a bank of reclaimed R404A - which could theoretically be used for ten years after the servicing ban on the virgin refrigerant comes into force in 2020 – would depend on major end-users systematically retiring R404A systems and keeping the gas for clean-up.

He said that if major retailers were to upgrade ten stores a year, five by replacing refrigerant and five by upgrading the entire systems  - which he noted was ‘as much is as reasonably possible’ -  there would be just about enough refrigerant for the reclaimed bank. But he warned “If the retirement rate is low; if leakage is not kept low; or if the serviced gas is not kept, that is going to give us trouble.”

There was a consensus amongst stakeholders that the price of R404A would start to rise as the producers wound their stocks down, making the refrigerant an increasingly valuable commodity. Mr Lawrence warned that end users should ensure they staked their claim to recovered gas for subsequent re-use: “It is sensible for companies to start writing into their contracts that it is their refrigerant, or the contractors will keep it.”

The refrigerant suppliers amongst the stakeholder reinforced the message that end users should not put off the decision. Peter Dinnage of IDS Refrigeration said: “The market changes are going to be a lot quicker on R404A than people realise. The cost could, and I stress could, be astronomical. One thing is certain, the slower people move away from R404A, the more it will cost.”

The PURR report gives a wealth of detail on replacement, including such considerations as refrigerant capacity, lubricant compatibility, glide and flammability. It is available for free download at: www.feta.co.uk/associations/bra/publications

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