Men working on site in PPE with cylinders
Industry Insight
23 February 2021

Beyond Borders

A-Gas Group Commercial Director, Ken Logan, on how other nations are looking to reduce the use of high GWP refrigerants during challenging times for the cooling industry.

I am happy to say that the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol – an international agreement to cut the use of climate-warming hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) refrigerants – appears to be in good health. Under the amendment, agreed upon in 2016, countries commit to cut the production and consumption of HFCs by more than 80 per cent over the next 30 years.

The UK was one of the early signatories but recently the amendment reached a major milestone, with Liberia becoming the 100th nation to ratify the agreement. This progress has continued, and Russia has become the 106th member to join the Kigali Club. With greater awareness that action is urgently needed to protect the planet, I believe that more countries will follow suit in the years to come.

It must not be underestimated that the amendment targets a massive reduction in the use of high global warming potential (GWP) HFCs; widely used refrigerant substitutes for ozone-depleting substances phased out under the Montreal Protocol.

Nation after nation is realising the importance of the amendment in helping to create an environmentally friendly future and setting out a pathway to do so. This received a further boost with the election of Joe Biden as the new US president. His predecessor’s reluctance to support green policies has been well documented, but with a new captain at the helm, change is on the way.

The US has not signed up to the Kigali Amendment, but after years of dragging its heels on ways to reduce the effects of global warming, it has finally agreed on legislation to phase down HFCs. This legislation will ultimately mirror what is happening in the UK and Europe with the F-Gas Regulation.

This is seen as a win-win for America’s cooling industry and US commentators hope that this bipartisan agreement will create new manufacturing jobs for American workers, while growing the US share of the world market for heating, air-conditioning, and refrigeration equipment. Importantly, it will also dramatically reduce a significant emission source contributing to climate change.

This legislation is progress but as a rule of thumb you could say that the US is around five years behind the UK and Europe in adopting similar measures to tackle climate change. I can, however, see the US catching up fast as there are already signs that the use of high GWP refrigerants is declining.

California is ahead of the rest of the country in its adoption of low carbon policies. Reclaimed refrigerants are used widely and I have no reason to believe that their take-up should not be similar in other parts of the US. Refrigerant recovery and reclamation have a big role to play as we look at ways to meet the challenge of reducing the use of HFCs.

Industry experts understand that refrigerants saved from disposal and returned to use as reclaimed gas can make a direct contribution to the reduction in the use of virgin refrigerants.

Having the right tools to recover and return refrigerants to use in cooling systems is most valuable to the contractor. They should be easy and quick to employ too. The A-Gas Rapid Recovery, legally compliant on-site recovery service, is a good example of how having the right equipment can make a real difference in the workplace.

A-Gas Rapid Recovery is making its mark around the globe including the US. It allows in-house maintenance teams or contractors to carry out other work while the recovery process is taken care of independently.

Reclaimed refrigerant sent to A-Gas reprocessing centres undergoes chemical analysis, is cleaned of contaminants and goes through our separation plants to produce a product that matches that of virgin refrigerant requirements.

Using reclaimed refrigerant is a direct way of lowering the carbon footprint of your customers. You will be saving on the use of raw materials, energy consumption and unnecessary transport normally associated with virgin production. In today’s modern society, end-users and customers are beginning to demand that their goods and services are produced and delivered in less wasteful ways.

Using reclaimed material is part of the cooling industry’s sustainable future across the world. With pressures growing to change the way we live and work, the cooling industry is well placed to reap the benefits of this circular economy – the opposite to the use and discard business model.

Nearer to home, the cooling industry in the UK has much to think about. This year’s reduction of 29 per cent (on a CO2 equivalent basis) in virgin refrigerant quota will take the industry down to 45 per cent of the 2015 baseline level.

The F-Gas step downs have at times led to price rises and shortages but as the sales of low GWP refrigerants grow and the use of reclaimed gases increases in popularity there are reasons for optimism.

Further to this, now that a trade deal has been signed, the effects of our departure from the European Union and the demands forced upon us by the COVID-19 pandemic will present us with other new challenges to face.

Across the world, the cooling industry has responded well to the demands forced upon it by the pandemic and its role in keeping essential services running should not be underestimated. Key maintenance has continued at hospitals, supermarkets and food processing plants where refrigeration, air conditioning and ventilation has been important in helping societies cope with the pandemic.

Refrigerants supplied by A-Gas have been critical in keeping infrastructure running in Europe, South Africa, Australia, the Far East, and the US. This has been highlighted in the US where A-Gas is supplying refrigerant to help store the Pfizer vaccine at low temperatures. We are proud of the resilience and ingenuity shown by our employees in rising to the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic.

We live in a global village and the cooling industry provides a good indication of how the same barriers to progress affect us all, wherever we live and work on the planet. The success of the Kigali Amendment in engaging more than 100 nations to commit to cut their production and use of HFCs illustrates what can be achieved when we work together.

To understand more about how A-Gas can work with you, please contact your local A-Gas team.