05 September 2016

Reclamation plays a key role as the F-Gas quota declines

Managing Director of A-Gas John Ormerod on how this will affect the industry as the phasedown in HFCs steps up a pace.


The phasedown of HFCs led by the F-Gas Regulations will put significant pressure on the supply of high GWP refrigerants, particularly in the years beyond 2018 when there are big stepdowns in the amount of refrigerant that can be placed on the market. Users of refrigeration and air conditioning equipment have a variety of options to move away from high GWP refrigerants – these fall into three main areas: replace the equipment, retrofit the gas with a lower GWP alternative or rely on reclaimed refrigerant. 

The latter will become an increasing part of the supply mix. The European Partnership for Energy and the Environment (EPEE) estimates that roughly a quarter of the 2018 shortfall will need to come from reclaimed sources – otherwise there simply won’t be enough refrigerant  on the market to meet demand. So there needs to be enough reclaimed refrigerant around to fill the gap.

There also needs to be significant capacity within the industry to process this reclaimed refrigerant and at A-Gas we are already getting ready for this. We are investing in a new refrigerant separator at our Portbury plant near Bristol – alongside the existing separator we use – this will more than double reclamation capacity at Portbury when it comes into use during the latter part of next year.

A-Gas reclaims thousands of tonnes of refrigerant a year across the world. Following the acquisition of Rapid Recovery in the USA, A-Gas is now arguably the world’s largest reclaimer of refrigerants.

In the UK and Europe we need to be in the right place to provide the capacity to handle the changes brought about by F-Gas and be able to process increasing volumes of waste refrigerant. The new equipment in Portbury will separate the mixed refrigerants that come back to us from across Europe, providing a source of supply back into our market.

Waste refrigerant is changing all the time with the mix becoming ever more complicated. We are starting to see much higher quantities of mixed refrigerant due to legacy refrigerants like R22 and the phase-out of high GWP refrigerants. These mixes set us new challenges and without separation technology it is almost impossible to return them to the same kind of quality as virgin material and get rid of the impurities and legacy refrigerants that are not needed.

A-Gas is a licensed reclaimer of refrigerants and our quality controls ensure that the reclaimed gas used by our customers is of the same high standard and specification as virgin refrigerant. In simple terms, if it is analysed you will not be able to tell the difference between reclaimed refrigerant and virgin refrigerant. This quality standard is crucial to ensuring reclaimed refrigerants perform identically to virgin refrigerants in systems.

Reclamation is a key part of adopting a holistic approach to refrigeration. Recycling is always better than manufacturing new gases and with the case in point where higher GWP refrigerants are being phased out, it makes sense to rely less on manufacture and more on recycling.

If you can recycle the refrigerant already out there then you are making a major contribution to the environmental side.

The industry in the UK is pretty well switched on to reclamation and how it will affect the market. In this respect it is fair to say that levels of compliance with the F-Gas Regulations are better than most European countries.

It is difficult to gauge exactly the true share of reclaimed refrigerant entering the market. Recent figures from Europe have been a little misleading but we do know that in the coming years the figure will grow. The regulations around the use of high GWP refrigerants are getting tighter all the time and there is speculation that HFCs may be brought under the Montreal Protocol.

This in some way will harmonise the direction of a phase out of HFCs across the world but within different timeframes. The approach that Europe has taken in terms of reclaim is being looked at closely in other parts of the world. And we expect to see other countries following a similar strategy to Europe.

At Chillventa our Business Development Manager for Europe, Norman Solheid, will be presenting a technical seminar Reclamation of Refrigerants – Bridge Over Troubled Waters on Wednesday October 12 (1pm) in Hall 7A (Stand 7A-618). He will explain in detail how reclamation is growing in importance as customers look to fulfill their regulatory and legislative obligations under the F-Gas Regulations.