UPDATE: EPA announces final dates for delisting of HFCs

By Janaina Topley Lira, Jul 24, 2015, 10:20 4 minute reading

Following the announcement from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on 2nd July outlining the final rule for the delisting of several high-GWP (global warming potential) refrigerants, R744.com and hydrocarbons21.com asked the industry what they thought of the rulings and whether they will have a significant impact on the acceleration for natural refrigerants.

This article was updated on July 24, 2015.

Industry feedback: This is a good step forward rather than a giant leap

Hydrocarbons21.com and R744.com asked the industry what they thought of the final rulings and what they could mean for the future of natural refrigerants in commercial and light commercial refrigeration.

Quentin Crowe of Hussmann reasons that the delaying of deadlines may have a beneficial effect on the industry in order to allow for a more effective transition:

“I don’t think it would be in anyone’s benefit to do it sooner than decided as there still needs to be training and design improvements to optimise equipment for these new lower-GWP refrigerants. With temperature glides on 10º looking to be the new norm for new refrigerants, standards on setting up and commissioning equipment need to be established.”

On whether these changes will spark the industry into action, the response was divided. As electronic controller manufacturer Sporlan astutely observes in the case of CO2 transcritical installations:

“We don't think it will materially change it [the demand for adoption of CO2 transcritical systems in retail food refrigeration]. There have been other options to R404A and R507 for years (R407A, C, and F), and the EPA's companion rule approving R448A, R449A, and R513A gives the industry more choices. We feel the adoption of CO2 stores overall will continue to increase, including transcritical systems, but will be more driven by technology and economics.”

Although Quentin Crowe of Hussmann notes that where CO2 is a proven solution, such as in northern climates, this delisting could drive the desired level of adoption that will make the economics more palatable for southern climates:

“I believe this is going to encourage some large retailers using R404A to consider transcritical CO2 in applications where it can be proven financially feasible in northern regions. This increased volume will help drive cost effective solutions so that transcritical CO2 can look more attractive in southern climates over the next couple years.”

True Manufacturing added that they expect this ruling to impact light commercial refrigeration most acutely.

"We believe the sector most affected will be self-contained refrigeration. There will be fewer options available for this sector so natural refrigerants will tend to be selected more than other options. There is still a chance that more HFO products will be available before the deadline. Some companies may choose to go that direction. The biggest question will be, is system efficiency able to meet the 2017 DoE standards?"

What are they commenting on? EPA rulings explained

The final rule, issued under EPA’s Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program, changes the listings from acceptable to unacceptable for certain hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and HFC-blends in various end-uses in the refrigeration and air conditioning, aerosols and foam blowing sectors. In all cases, other refrigerant alternatives were found to be available or potentially available that pose lower overall risk to human health and the environment. The final rule takes effect 30 days after its publication in the Federal Register, which represents the official version of the rule.
In its original delisting announcement in August 2014, EPA jarred the HVAC&R industry by proposing that the indicated refrigerants be phased out as of January 2016. However, in its final rule, the agency moved those dates backards by at least one year.
For example, for retail food refrigeration applications, the use of HFCs R404A, R507A and other HFCs in new supermarket systems will be deemed unacceptable as of January 1, 2017. R404A, R507A and other HFCs will be delisted from use in new remote condensing units in supermarkets as of January 1, 2018.

In retrofit systems, roughly the same refrigerants will become unacceptable one year from the date of publication of the final rule in the Federal Register.
The rule also listed revised dates for a slew of refrigerants, including R134a, R404A, R407A and R507A, in new stand-alone medium-temperature and low-temperature units in supermarkets. These refrigerants will be unacceptable as of January 1, 2020 for low-temperature units as well as medium-temperature units with a compressor capacity of at least 2,200 BTU/hour and medium temperature units containing a flooded evaporator. 

The same refrigerants will be delisted as of January 1, 2019 in new medium-temperature units with a compressor capacity below 2,200 BTU/hour and those not containing a flooded evaporator.
The EPA designated January 1, 2019 as the date when refrigerants such as R134a, R404A, R507A and several others will be unacceptable in new vending machines. In retrofit vending machines, R404A and R507A will be unacceptable as of one year from the date of publication of the final rule.
In motor vehicle air conditioning, R134a will be unacceptable as of model year 2021, except where allowed under a narrowed use limit through model year 2025. 

An advance copy of the final rule (Rule 20) is available at http://www.epa.gov/ozone/snap/regulations.html, which will be updated once the final rule is published in the Federal Register. 
In a separate notice, the EPA is expanding the list of acceptable climate-friendly alternatives for use in the refrigeration and air conditioning, foam blowing and other sectors.


By Janaina Topley Lira

Jul 24, 2015, 10:20

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