US EPA finalises two rules to reduce emissions of HFCs

By Lauren Clark, Sep 28, 2016, 11:57 2 minute reading

On 26 September the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalised two rules under the Clean Air Act (CAA). Section 608 of the CAA now covers HFCs for leak checking requirements. The finalised rule under the Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) Program lists propane as acceptable in new end-uses and prohibits the use of high-GWP HFCs in certain applications.

The updated Section 608 of the CAA now includes HFCs and entitles technicians to calculate the leak rate whenever new refrigerant is added. If the leak exceeds the applicable leak rate it must be repaired with in 30 days. If the leak cannot be repaired, then a retrofit retirement plan must be developed within 30 days of its initial discovery. In this case, the retrofit retirement must be completed within one year but time extensions might be available.

For example, the rule allows for up to 18 months if the replacement appliance uses exempt refrigerants such as CO2, hydrocarbons and ammonia. The allowed leak rate is also lowered from 35% to 20% for refrigeration appliances and from 15% to 10% for comfort cooling. 

Finalised SNAP rule extends use of propane

The finalised SNAP rule will extend the list of acceptable alternatives for certain banned f-gases that disproportionately contribute to climate change. The new changes cover the refrigeration and air conditioning, foam blowing and fire suppression sectors.

The rule would designate propane as an acceptable refrigerant in new commercial ice machines, new water coolers and new very low temperature refrigeration equipment. The rule allows propane used in these end-uses to be exempt from the Clean Air Act’s venting prohibition.

Additionally, the SNAP update formally lists all A3 refrigerants (hydrocarbons) as unacceptable retrofit residential and light commercial air conditioning and heat pumps, unitary split air conditioning and heat pumps. Propylene and R443A (a blend of propylene, propane and isobutane) for new residential and light commercial air conditioning and heat pumps, cold storage warehouses, centrifugal chillers, and positive displacement chillers are also listed as unacceptable.

In addition, the EPA has announced changes of listing status for certain high GWP fluorinated gases, such as R404A, R410A, R134a, and R407C. These f-gases will no longer be acceptable for the following uses:

  • For new centrifugal chillers and new positive displacement chillers, as of 1 January 2024.
  • For new cold storage warehouses, as of 1 January 2023.
  • For new retail food refrigeration (refrigerated food processing and dispensing equipment) and new household refrigerators and freezers, as of 1 January 2021.

There were no changes between the restrictions that were proposed in March, and those that are in the final SNAP ruling.

By Lauren Clark

Sep 28, 2016, 11:57

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