HFC refrigerant phase down
The European F-gas Regulation creates controls on the use and emissions of fluorinated greenhouse gases (F-gases). January 1 2020 was one of the critical dates in the phase down of the use of HFC refrigerants. From that date:
- Refrigerators and freezers for commercial use (hermetically sealed systems) cannot be placed on the market if they contain HFCs with a GWP of 2,500 or more.
This includes refrigerants such as R404A (GWP of 4,200*) and R507A (GWP of 4,300*) which were common in small hermetic refrigeration systems. Refrigerators and freezers using these refrigerants should no longer be placed on the EU market. When we searched we had no problem finding many examples of products containing these refrigerants advertised on EU web sites. It therefore seems apparent that manufacturers are not fully aware of the new restriction in place.
The issue for manufacturers of small hermetic refrigeration systems is not just that the use of R404A and R507A is banned. Large chemical manufacturers are now beginning to stop supply of these refrigerants. Chemours and Honeywell have already suspended supply of virgin R404A and R507A. Therefore it will become more difficult to buy high GWP refrigerants on the open market. Reclaimed refrigerant can only be used for maintenance or servicing of existing refrigeration equipment provided it has been recovered from such equipment. Therefore this is not an option available to manufacturers of new equipment.
Many manufacturers have already moved to low GWP alternatives. Many are using hydrocarbons such as R290 (propane). Moving from R404A to R290 is technically relatively simple but care needs to be taken to ensure that flammability risks are mitigated. In the past year we have helped several companies retrofit low GWP refrigerants in small hermetic refrigeration whilst also assessing safety and mitigating flammability risks.
If you would like help selecting, retrofitting or designing refrigeration systems with an alternative refrigerant please contact us at RD&T (firstname.lastname@example.org).
* 100 year GWP taken from UNEP: 2014 Report of the Refrigeration, Air Conditioning and Heat Pumps Technical Options Committee.