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European Commission opts for phase down instead of HFC ban

By Joe Whitworth , 08-Nov-2012
Last updated on 08-Nov-2012 at 13:40 GMT

The European Commission (EC) has stopped short of a muted ban on HFCs in refrigerants, opting for a phase down that introduces lower limit benchmarks leading up to 2030.

The EC said the new proposal would reduce today’s greenhouse gas emissions by two thirds by 2030.

It added refrigerators and freezers for commercial use (hermetically sealed systems) for HFCs with global warming potential (GWP) of 2500 or more would be banned from 1 January 2017 and HFCs with GWP of 150 or more prohibited from 1 January 2020.

Recharging of existing refrigeration equipment with a charge size over 5 tonnes of CO2 equivalent with HFC of very high GWP (>2500) will not be permitted from 2020 onwards as more adequate and energy efficient drop-in refrigerants are already widely available on the market, said the proposal.

Options open: EPEE

The European Partnership for Energy and the Environment (EPEE) welcomed the decision, saying a phase down would leave the choice open for each application to select the best solution.

The group, representing the heating, cooling and refrigeration industry, said the phase down would steer industry “along a path to eliminating HFCs with a high GWP where feasible from a health and safety, energy efficiency, technological and economic perspective”.   

Andrea Voigt, director general EPEE, said: “If we are serious about reducing emissions, then we need a measure that leaves the choice open for selecting the best solutions for each and every application, everywhere in Europe.”

HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons, made up of hydrogen, florine and carbon) are the most commonly used F-Gases, said EPEE.

One new measure is the introduction of quantitative limits on the supply of bulk HFC substances in the EU, decreasing over time.

“The phase-down mechanism involves a gradually declining cap on the total placement of bulk HFCs (in tonnes of CO2 equivalent) on the market in the EU with a freeze in 2015, followed by a first reduction in 2016 and reaching 21 % of the levels sold in 2008–11 by 2030,” said the proposal.

“Producers of products and equipment who face a restricted supply of F-gases will switch to alternative technologies where feasible.”

Alternatives include non-fluorinated alternatives, CO2, Hydro-carbons, ammonia and HFOs.  

The F-Gas Regulation proposal will now go into Co-Decision procedure where EU Commission, member states and parliament will have to come to an agreement.

EPEE said discussions were expected to be “lively” considering the proposal’s “ambitious” nature and urged the Council and European Parliament to reach a final agreement in a single reading.

Pre-decision reaction

Speaking before the decision was made, Thomas Spänich, manager R&D and Engineering Skids at GEA, said the firm see natural alternatives to HFCs.

“Natural refrigerants[s] benefit from their efficiency, the long term experience of more than 100 years and the availability of components such as compressors and other necessary equipment.

“The major drawback is the overall public recognition of those refrigerants as hazardous due to their physical properties.”

Oliver Poyet, global business manager for refrigerants at Arkema, said that the firm expects to be able to market the HFO alternative technology and HFO blends for freezers in 2020.

“Fluorinated refrigerants have low toxicity as well as being low to non-flammable products. They provide the best balance between energy efficiency, safety and TEWI, in comparison to toxic (ammonia), flammable (hydrocarbons), or high-pressure (Co2) alternative refrigerants.”

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