Firms need to act now on refrigerant fluid, says Arkema

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Very few installations have been retrofitted with HFC or topped up with recycled R22, a HCFC refrigerant fluid, with the deadline of 2009 phase-out fast approaching, claims a HFC/CHIC refrigerant manufacturer.

A ban on virgin hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) 22 fluid for refrigeration equipment maintenance will come into force on 31 December 2009, as directed by European Regulation 2037/2000. Under the rules, from 1 January 2015 all HCFCs will be prohibited from use in the maintenance and servicing of refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment.

The Regulation allows for the replacement of the HCFC 22 with zero ozone depletion potential (ODP) hydrofluorocarbon (HFC), or the topping up of the installation with recycled R22 from 2010 to 2014; another option is to invest in new equipment.

Potential shortages

Joachim Merziger, global business manager at Arkema refrigerants, claims that if manufacturers do not take action now, a difficult situation could develop by 2010 and beyond:

“There could be potential shortage of recycled R22 fluid as well as a shortage of labour and qualified personnel to cope with the demand for maintenance,”​ explained Merziger.

He said that as a direct result of the changing regulatory environment Arkema developed Forane 427A for use as a retrofit HCFC replacer for existing R-22 installations in a large range of applications.

“It offers a similar performance to R-22 usually without any modification to the installation, and it can be used to retrofit low temperature refrigeration equipment as well as air-conditioning installations,”​ continued Merziger.

He added that Forane 427A is a 100 per cent HFC blend and is compatible with polyolester lubricants while also being tolerant of high levels of residual alkylbenzene or mineral oil.

Ozone layer

The growth in the market for more environmentally friendly alternatives to HCFC and chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) refrigerants has marched in tune to the global understanding that HCFCs and CFCs, now being phased out globally, are detrimental to the fragile ozone layer.

This is underpinned by the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer treaty, signed by 191 global parties and designed to protect the ozone layer by phasing out the production of a number of substances believed to be responsible for ozone depletion.

HFCs criticised

Fluorinated gases such as HFCs currently account for 2 per cent of total EU greenhouse gas emissions. However, their global warming potential is high and many of them have long atmospheric lifetimes.

Consequently, HFCs used as alternatives to HCFCs have been criticized by environmental campaigners. Environmental group Greenpeace claimed in a recent position paper that they are "potent global warming gases".

"The Protocol sanctions and promotes the wide scale use of HFCs, since HFCs do not contribute to ozone depletion, the Protocol does not have the mandate to legally control them. Still, the Protocol encourages their wide scale use and therefore shares in the moral responsibility for their ultimate impact upon the environment,"​ states Greenpeace.

Meanwhile, market analyst Freedonia Group estimates the global fluorochemical industry, worth $13.3bn, will grow by 3.1 per cent annually until 2011.

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