Users of R404A and other high-GWP refrigerant need to urgently step up plans for conversion to lower GWP options or face severe price rises and the prospect of shortages.
That was a key message from RAC’s recent Round Table on the Future of HFOs, which saw representatives from across the supply chain discuss the current state of industry refrigerant use and the prospects for conversions to alternatives. Those representing the refrigerant supply side stressed that the forthcoming ban on servicing of higher-GWP refrigerants and parallel steep drop in quota production of R404A were creating an unprecedented situation for the industry.
Janet Ludert, European marketing manager at Chemours, who monitors and manages the quota amongst the various refrigerants for the manufacturer, put the issue starkly: “The industry is moving too slowly, we can see that that the drop in quota is coming fast towards us like a tsunami…companies need to get moving to lower GWP as the clock is ticking.”
Peter Dinnage of refrigerant distributor Climalife said: “People may have memories of the warnings over phase-out of R22, but the drop in quota means that supply is reducing much more quickly. Make no mistake this is an unprecedented situation.”
Wholesalers last month alerted customers to price rises of 20-30 per cent for HFC blends from April - for example, Dean & Wood announced R404A would rise by 30 per cent from April 1, on the back of a 25 per cent rise on January 1 - and last week refrigerant manufacturer Chemours announced a further 30 per cent hike for R404A from May 1, as a result of stock levels beind adjusted ahead of the next phasedown of HFCs.
In addition, Honeywell this week announced it would stop selling R404A and R507 in the EU from 2018 (see separate story0.
Suppliers pointed out that the emphasis placed on GWP by the steadily reducing quota system was already seeing HFO blends reach price parity with HFCs. This is borne out by the retail price at wholesalers: for example at Climate Center a 11 kg cylinder of R404A currently costs £1188.36, whereas a 12 kg cylinder of the HFO R449A costs £878.80.
Mark Hughes, UK sales manager for Chemours said that with quotas based on GWP the message to customers to change to lower-GWP options should be straightforward now: “We are saying to customers, because of the GWP weighting, you now effectively have a choice between one cylinder of R404A and three of R449A.”
Representatives from across the industry warned that the message needed to be spread more widely in order to reach those outside of the major supermarket. Steve Gill, consultant and president of the IOR warned: “The rate of change [regarding refrigerants] is unprecedented but the industry seems to be in a state of denial about converting to lower GWP. We just need to get on with it!”
Dean Frost, md of A1 Refrigeration warned that ensuring appropriate training for engineers was vital. He said: “It is important that the engineers have the skills in new refrigerants such as HFOs so that they can service the kit.”
John Smith, president of the BRA and technical director with wholesaler Beijer Ref agreed. He said: “We need to remember that for many in the industry, they are faced with moving away from a stable non-flammable refrigerant, in the form of HFCs and so they are reluctant to change. It is this White Van Man who we need to reach with the message about lower GWPs. It is not necessary hands-on training they need in the first instance, it is good information.”
Report from Future of HFOs Round Table in May edition of RAC.