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Revised hydrocarbon charge remains a long way from implementation

Recent approval of a revised IEC standard for the amount of flammable gas that can used in certain cooling applications must now undergo a complex UK approval  process

Implementing recently approved amendments to increase the hydrocarbon charge size for refrigerant allowed in cooling cabinets may take some time to be implemented in the UK, Martyn Cooper of FETA has said.

Mr Cooper has warned that despite some industry interest in adopting the new charge sizes, the process of implementing changes safely into EU and UK law would be complex and “convoluted”. However, the process is viewed as being vital to build up industry awareness and capability for the safe handling of different types of products with some level of flammability, he said.

A proposal put forward to the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) to increase the amount of hydrocarbons was approved for plug-in applications this month after previously being narrowly rejected by voting members in April.

A vote by Malaysian representatives at the IEC against the revised edition of the IEC 60335-2-89 standard was ultimately rejected due to a procedural matter.

The publication of the standard is expected soon and will allow for the new charge sizes to be implemented imminently, according to the IEC. However, countries and a number of regions such as the EU will need to amend the standards to their own laws. These will then need to be passed into legislation.

Martin Cooper said that the process of safely defining new standards based on these charge limits was not something that could be rushed, even with market interest in expanding the applications for hydrocarbons in cooling.

He said, “This is going to be a very convoluted process and will take some time. Ultimately, we are talking about safety.”

Mr Cooper noted that part of the complexity of the process was ongoing industry concerns - even among some FETA members – over a number of details there were yet to be finalised over the safety aspects of any increased charge size.

A significant amount of work with stakeholders and FETA members was now needed both at EU and UK level to ensure clear standards and industry awareness was in place, he added.

The new charge size approved for hydrocarbon as defined under IEC 60335-2-89 has been increased to 500g from 150g. The increase is even higher in the case of lower flammability gas (A2Ls) - from 150g to 1.2kg. A2L charge is defined separately under the standard.

Mr Cooper said the process of approving these charge sizes was an important step to help the meet EU targets to curb reliance on higher GWP products under the F-Gas Regulation by finding viable alternatives to reduce the industry’s carbon emissions from cooling. This remained the case even with the additional work required to fully ensure safety, he added.

New era for flammables labelling

FETA noted that efforts to introduce the amended charge sizes were being introduced alongside other important changes to EU chemical labelling regulations. Mr Cooper said the changes were expected to give a more nuanced approach to detailing the level of flammability in a gas cylinder.

He said that refrigerant with both lower and higher flammability had previously used the same labelling. However, with lower flammability products being separately classed to the H-221 labelling standard, there was now a clear differentiation between the product’s lower flammability compared to the qualities of A3 gas.

Over the next year or so, Mr Cooper said he expected new cylinder labels to become noticeable on the market. The labels would reflect what he called a “spectrum of flammability” concerning the risks and safety measures needed to handle each type of gas based on its respective level of flammability

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