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Phase down of HFCs would offer much needed flexibility, says industry group

By Joe Whitworth , 31-Oct-2012
Last updated the 31-Oct-2012 at 15:12 GMT

A phase down of HFCs in refrigerants is better than an outright ban that could cost the industry billions, according to the European Partnership for Energy and the Environment (EPEE).

The group, representing the heating, cooling and refrigeration industry, have proposed a phase down of F-gases in the EU, with the European Commission currently drawing up a plan that could involve the phase down or ban of the refrigerant.

When contacted by FoodProductionDaily.com, the European Commission said it was unable to comment on the specifics of any revision of regulations.

HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons, made up of hydrogen, florine and carbon) are the mostly commonly used F-Gases and EPEE proposes reducing consumption by 30% in 2020 and 65% in 2030.

Existing F-Gas Regulation is expected to deliver emission savings of more than 40% in 2030, said EPEE.

A study by SKM Enviros, commissioned by EPEE, said the total economic impact of emissions abatement could reach €25 per tonne of CO2 by 2030.  

Phase down flexibility

Andrea Voigt, EPEE’s Director General, told FoodProductionDaily.com the industry is extremely complex and a phase down would offer much needed flexibility.

“Industry is already implementing a phase down into using lower global warming refrigerants without legislation, but an official phase down would make additional motivation.

“We don’t see the necessity of a ban when we can achieve targets with the proposed phase down. Some [of the alternatives] are already in use now, there is no reason to ban.”

She added there was no perfect refrigerant but alternatives included non-fluorinated alternatives, CO2, Hydro-carbons, ammonia and HFO’s.

Natural alternatives - GEA

Thomas Spänich, Manager R&D and Engineering Skids at GEA, which manufactures cooling processes for the food and beverage industry, said the firm see natural alternatives as alternatives to HFCs.

“Natural refrigerant[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 their physical properties.”

He said the influence of a ban or phase down could be seen in Denmark because HFCs are banned from almost all applications.

“For almost all refrigeration and air conditioning purposes alternatives have been introduced, although especially for smaller AC purposes long term experience is still missing. We [are] focusing here especially in CO2 applications e.g. with our new developed GEA Bock CO2 compressors.

Of course we as GEA Refrigeration Technologies can just speak for ourselves and do our utmost in being innovative with regard to components and equipment for non-HFC use.”

Currently, hydrogen, carbon, florine and chlorine (HCFC) refrigerants are banned from virgin use with general phase out by 2015.

Carbon, Florine ad Chlorine (CFC) refrigerants are banned from countries covered by the Montreal Protocol of 1987.

Develop alternatives - Arkema

Olivier Poyet, Global Business Manager for refrigerants at Arkema, who supply the food processing industry, told this publication that the firm mainly uses HFC refrigerants in its systems.

These positions of EPEE seem reasonable to give us time to develop mature alternative technologies to HFCs. Arkema 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."

He said Arkema supported the use of the cap and phase down and the need to revise the F-gas regulation.

Nevertheless, further clarification will be needed on the scope and timing, and hence impact of the proposed use bans.

For the moment we wait for [the] official proposal, that we will analyse once available and provide further detailed comments to the European Commission and Member States.”

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