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European contractor body warns EC will not slow F-Gas phasedown despite EU supply fears

A number of EU cooling industries have raised concerns about severity of cuts and called for exemptions

AREA has said that significant incoming quota reductions on the amount of F-Gas available for use in refrigeration should move forward as planned, despite concern from some EU member states about the impact of supply cuts on industry.

Industry stakeholders in Italy and Spain are more susceptible due to the technical challenges of catering for higher ambient applications required in their domestic markets. It is understood that Spanish industry players have been lobbying their own government over the possibility of exemptions moving forward.

Germany’s refrigerant industry has also expressed concern that reductions in the F-Gas quota will simply be too steep and require an amended approach.

AREA immediate past president, Graeme Fox, said that it was clear across the EU that there were issues with availability of major refrigerant that was being reflected in surging costs for products such as R404A. Prices which have risen tenfold in the UK in 2017 are expected to rise further when the strictest F-Gas quota cuts formally come into effect in 2018 cutting existing supply levels by 37 per cent of the 2015 baseline amount.

The resulting market pressures are seen as the intended consequence of F-Gas regulation across Europe and therefore would be difficult to amend even with challenges posed to suppliers, equipment manufacturers and end users.

Mr Fox argued that although all EU countries were experiencing supply concerns for refrigerant, southern member states in particular were being  harder hit.

However, AREA said that it would be difficult to back exemption calls to the EU F-Gas regulation as the intention of the legislation is to create a market that incentivise take up of lower GWP products and technology. As industry is led by cost, price hikes were viewed by the European Commission as an intended consequence of phasing down F-Gas use.

Major refrigerant suppliers such as Chemours have argued in recent months that the limited availability of cooling technology specifically designed for lower GWP refrigerants is proving to be a significant barrier in meeting the challenges of the F-Gas phasedown.

Support mechanisms

Mr Fox said that there was also no additional support mechanisms or financial programmes to specifically aid the cooling industry in the phase-down ambitions from the EU, with market forces expected to drive any switch.

A hearing held by the UK parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee earlier this month to consider the UK’s progress in moving to lower GWP refrigerant also touched upon the possibility of support for the cooling industry to offset supply pressures.

However, Mr fox said he was not sure how effective national support programmes or initiatives may be for the cooling industry when considering the increasingly global nature of the refrigerant supply chain and broader commitments to curb carbon emissions.

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