Goodbye Virgin R404A
A-Gas Managing Director John Ormerod on progress being made by the industry to meet the new challenges laid down by the F-Gas Regulations.
Change can be unrelenting in the refrigeration industry. The F-Gas Regulations move into a new gear in 2020 and installers and end users will need to understand fully what’s happening and how it will affect their business over the coming years.
Next year there’ll be a ban on the placing on the market of stationary refrigeration equipment using high GWP refrigerants (>2500 GWP) with an exception for equipment operating below -50°C.
The ban on the use of virgin refrigerants with a GWP of more than 2500 will give the industry plenty to think about. Irrespective of the size of the system, this means you will be unable to install refrigeration equipment that uses gases above this limit. This effectively brings the installation of new R404A equipment to an end.
There’ll also be a ban on servicing existing equipment with virgin refrigerants that have a GWP of more than 2500 and where the charge is greater than 40 tonnes of CO2 equivalent – that’s equal in amount to approximately 10kgs of R404A.
Users of equipment still running on R404A could be forgiven for feeling confused with all these thresholds that mean you can service smaller equipment with virgin R404A but not larger equipment. If the system contains a charge of gas that’s more than 10kg of R404A the ban on servicing that equipment with virgin product will mean that an alternative low GWP refrigerant is needed. The good news is that this is not the only option as reclaimed R404A can be used up until 2030, regardless of the charge size.
I strongly suspect that refrigerant suppliers will simply remove all stocks of virgin R404A from sale and switch to reclaimed R404A. In truth this will make it easier for the contractors who will at least know that they can use all they are buying without falling foul of the regulations.
We’ve passed through two years where there’s been a great deal of uncertainty about refrigerant availability and if there will be sufficient amounts of the new generation gases to support the phase down. What 2018 has taught us is that it’s going to be a mixture of new – and reclaimed refrigerants – that will support the transition away from high GWP gases.
There’s less pressure on supplies and what has emerged is that the market has now stabilised and we can plan for the future with some degree of confidence. One thing you can be certain of is that this year the major refrigerant suppliers will say goodbye to virgin R404A.
It is significant that the big supermarkets and many in the food processing industry have adapted well to the change. The last two years has seen this sector make considerable progress in converting to lower GWP gases and utilising the A-Gas Rapid Recovery offering to ensure a smooth transition. Pretty much all the major supermarkets are well advanced on reducing their reliance on R404A. Most seem to be moving to interim replacements like R448A and R449A which will give them some breathing space to the mid to late 2020s.
If you roll forward into 2021 and 2022 greater change is on the way. In 2021 there’s the next stepdown in the F-Gas quota when virgin refrigerant availability will drop by another 29 per cent, on a CO2 equivalent basis, taking the industry down to 45 per cent of the 2015 baseline level.
This is quite a significant drop and some market volatility is to be expected. In 2022 the bar for the use of virgin HFCs is raised even higher when the threshold drops from 2500 to 150 GWP for hermetically sealed equipment and multipack centralised refrigeration equipment above 40kW. This will really ramp up the pressure on the industry.
In the meantime, enjoy 2019 and the slow run up to the major changes taking place in the years to come. Our advice at A-Gas to installers and end-users, is don’t hesitate to seek advice from your refrigerant supplier, especially if you are unsure on how to react. Experts are on hand to help. The A-Gas website has a wealth of information to help you switch to a low GWP refrigerants. We are also happy to provide advice at the end of the phone.
You can be sure that however difficult the journey may appear to be at the start, there is always help available to guide you in the right direction and a positive outcome.
As seen in ACR Journal.