The EU has finally agreed proposals to revise the F-Gas Regulation. The long-awaited changes are important, as they set a new legislative framework for the use of many common refrigerants.
The changes have implications for all those who supply, install, repair and use air conditioning and refrigeration equipment in the UK and across Europe.
The revisions will result in a phase-down of commonly used HFC refrigerants with a high global warming potential.
It will impact refrigerants used in air conditioning, refrigeration and heat pump systems in offices, supermarkets, food and drink production, restaurants, leisure centres, hospitals, data centres and educational establishments across the country.
The proposals include:
- A phase-down in the use of high global warming potential HFC refrigerants, with a progressive cap on consumption to deliver a 79% reduction in use by 2030. This is expected to lead to increased use of low GWP refrigerants.
- A ban on the use of HFC refrigerants with a GWP of over 2,500 in hermetic stand-alone refrigeration equipment from 2020. By 2022, such equipment will be restricted to gases with a GWP of below 150.
- A ban on service use (topping up) of HFC refrigerants with a GWP of over 2,500 from 2020. Use of recycled/reclaimed refrigerant may be allowed until 2030.
- HFCs with a GWP of 150 or more will be banned in centralised multi-compressor refrigeration packs of 40kW or more from 2022 (except where they are used in the primary circuit of cascade systems, where GWPs of under 1500 will be allowed).
- HFCs with a GWP greater than 2,500 will be banned in all other stationary refrigeration equipment from 2020 (except in very low temperature applications under -50ºC).
Despite the relatively long timescales, there is a strong business case for taking action now to review reliance on the refrigerants affected. This is necessary because of the long operational life of some of the equipment affected.
For example, refrigeration plants used in food retail or food and drink manufacture may have a life expectancy of between 10 and 15 years. Therefore, investment decisions made now need to take account of the legislative framework operating many years into the future. This is also true in relation to large variable refrigerant volume, variable refrigerant flow, or chiller-based air conditioning systems serving buildings.
For those affected, therefore, it is prudent to review options now, so that plans can be put in place in good time to manage the transition to greener alternatives.
One of the most important effects of the changes is expected to be a move away from the use of R410A, a mainstream refrigerant widely used in air conditioning. It will also impact R404A, a high GWP refrigerant used in refrigeration equipment. There are more environmentally friendly options for both these refrigerants now becoming available.
Final implementation of the changes requires a vote by the European Parliament environment committee, and then the European Parliament, which is likely to take place in February or March 2014.
Finally, it will require approval by the European Council. Subject to this, the changes will then come into force from 1 January, 2015.
Robert Franklin is national sales manager for refrigeration at Climate Center