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China indicates it will leap straight from HCFCs to natural refrigerants in many cases

China has given ‘its clearest indication yet’ that it is planning to leap straight to natural refrigerants as a substitute for HCFCs, according to China market intelligence specialist CCM

China has given ‘its clearest indication yet’ that it is planning to promote natural refrigerants as a substitute for HCFCs after publishing a list of ‘recommended substitutes for HCFCs’ which feature nearly all natural refrigerants, rather than other low-GWP alternatives.

According to market intelligence firm CCM, the publication of the list is likely to be followed by more substantial policies promoting natural refrigerants and foam-blowing agents over the coming years.

The First Catalogue of Recommended Substitutes for HCFCs was published in June by China’s Foreign Economic Cooperation Office, Ministry of Environmental Protection (FECO).

FECO officials announced that the Catalogue was the product of extensive research into policies to transition away from HCFCs and to fulfil China’s obligations under the Montreal Protocol. The Catalogue was put out to public consultation.

Of the twelve substitutes included in the Catalogue, ten are natural chemicals and only one is an HFC – R32 – which CCN contends is a clear indication of the government’s mindset as China begins the move towards eliminating HCFCs.

The Catalogue is intended to be a general indication of the Chinese government’s intentions and will not include any practical policies to support natural substitutes for HCFCs, the consultant noted. “However, recent history suggests that more practical measures are likely to follow in the near future. When China announced that it intended to promote R290 as a replacement for R22 in domestic air conditioners in 2012, several supportive policies were introduced soon after, including an agreement to help air conditioner manufacturers overhaul their production lines in 2013, new subsidies for the production and marketing of air conditioners using R290 from 2014, and the introduction of a new ‘Environmental Protection and Low Carbon Label’ in 2015 to encourage consumers to choose green air conditioners.”

As CCN notes, the policies have proved to be very effective, with Gree Electric Appliances and Haier Group – two of China’s leading air conditioner manufacturers – announcing the launch of new R290 products this year.

“Considering the scale of investment needed for production overhauls, product re-designs and overcoming various technical difficulties such as increased flammability of R290 air conditioners, making this transition in just three years is an impressive achievement.”

Severe overcapacity has made life increasingly difficult for HFC producers in China, the consultant added. In the HFC-134a industry, for example, operating capacity is currently under 50 per cent, while prices have fallen by 300 per cent since 2012, according to CCM’s research.

“With the full weight of government support behind them, natural refrigerants are likely to increase their market share in China substantially over the next few years.”

CCM will publish further news, data and analysis of China’s transition from HCFCs in E-Journal, its real-time intelligence service for China’s fluorochemicals market. Interested readers can register for a free trial.

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