Uncertain future of fluorinated refrigerants

written by Pavel Makhnatch (under supervision of Rahmatollah Khodabandeh and Björn Palm)

Published Oct 29, 2013

Since the initial proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on fluorinated greenhouse gases regulation (F-Gas Proposal) has been presented by the European Commission [1], the European Parliament together with the Member States are set to work hard to come to a final agreement on the F-gas Regulation review. The initial results of this work has been recently revealed in form of Draft Report on the F-Gas Proposal [2], which has become publicly available this March.

According to the report, European Parliament calls for even stricter bans on the use of fluorinated gases (hence – fluorinated refrigerants) compared to those which are set in the F-Gas Proposal. European Parliament’s Environment Committee is set to be responsible for the revision of the F-gas rules. Bas Eickhout, who is the Rapporteur for Environment Committee, proposes a number of significant amendments to the F-Gas Proposal which are focused on fluorinated substances phase-down speed-up, propose placing hydrofluorocarbons on the market quota allocation fee, enhance the placing on market (POM) prohibitions, introduce refrigerant recovery incentives, and etc.

More equipment could be prohibited from placing on market

Placing on market prohibition is effective measure to mitigate usage of HFCs, considering that more sustainable alternatives are available or could be developed soon. On one hand, POM prohibitions are able to preserve limited F-gas quotas for other sectors, not included in POM prohibitions list, and ensure the cost-effectiveness of the phase down. On another hand, these measures can ensure a transparent, stable and predictable investment climate for smaller European companies, which are developing and producing sustainable alternatives.

F-Gas Proposal includes a number of POM prohibition initiatives. Draft Report to the proposal additionally extends those prohibitions to include new products and equipment and to set more ambition deadlines for those previously included. Table 1 summarizes the POM prohibitions of F-Gas proposal and complements them with new ones, introduced in Draft Report (marked in bold font).

Table 1 - Placing on market prohibition under the F-Gas Proposal [1]and the amendments of Draft Report [2] (amendment – in bold font)

PRODUCT AND EQUIPMENT

DATE OF PROHIBITION

Use of HFC-23 in fire protection systems and fire extinguishers

1 January 2015

Domestic refrigerators and freezers containing HFCs (was: containing HFCs with GWP of 150 or more)

1 January 2015

Refrigeration equipment that contains fluorinated greenhouse gases with GWP of 2150 or more

1 January 2015

Stationary refrigeration equipment that contain fluorinated greenhouse gases

1 January 2020

Refrigerators and freezers for commercial use (hermetically sealed systems)

was: 1 January 2017 for HFCs with GWP of 2500 or more

now: January 2015 for HFCs with GWP of 2150 or more

was: 1 January 2020 for HFCs with GWP of 150 or more

now: 1 January 2018 for all HFCs

Movable room air-conditioning appliances (hermetically sealed) that contain HFCs (was: that contain HFC with GWP of 150 or more)

1 January 2020

Technical aerosols

1 January 2020

Foams containing fluorinated greenhouse gases

1 January 2015

Stationary air-conditioning equipment that contain fluorinated greenhouse gases

1 January 2020

(1 January 2027 for centrifugal chillers)

Air-conditioning equipment in cargo ships that contain fluorinated greenhouse gases

1 January 2020

Mobile refrigeration equipment except fishing vessels that contain fluorinated greenhouse gases

1 January 2025

The amendments address a number of fast growing emission source sectors and include such widespread products as, for instance, stationary air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment. The reasoning for most of them is that there will be expected to be significant market penetration of the sustainable non-HFC alternatives to the HFC-containing materials and equipment.

Phase-down

Phase-down is proved to be effective measure to gradually phase out environmentally polluting substances (recall the success of CFC and HCFC phase-out under the Montreal protocol). The phase-out schedule, introduced in the F-Gas Proposal is further tightened and, thus, more ambitious (see Figure 1).

Figure 1 - Potential phase-down schedule under the F-Gas Directive in percentage to the baseline values [1] [2]

New phase-down schedule, proposed by Draft Report, takes into account it’s amendments to service ban introduction. Service ban, as it is stated in the F-Gas Proposal, implies that from 1 January 2020 the F-Gases will be prohibited on service or maintaining refrigeration equipment with a charge size equivalent to 5 tonnes of CO2 equivalent (e.g. less than 2.5 kg of R410A).

Draft Report, in turn, proposes to implement this measure already from the beginning of 2015, concurrently increasing charge threshold from 5 to 40 tonnes CO2-eq. This change will allow around 80% reduction in amount of systems under the service ban, still providing significant environmental benefits (with only small reduction of 8% compared to 5 ton threshold). Refrigeration equipment operating at temperatures below -50°C is excluded from service ban to promote the recycling of recovered high-GWP HFCs.

Pollutant pays

Other noticeable amendments include quota allocation fee and ban on by-product emissions. A fee of 30 EUR/ton CO2-eq. is proposed to be allocated for any part of the placing hydrofluorocarbons on the market quota used or transferred. This is to follow the “pollutant pays” principle and to secure a revenue stream to compensate for regional differences in costs due to climate conditions. This revenue will then be allocated to be used to support the implementation of the F-Gas Regulation and to address regional differences in relation to the cost of replacement technologies due to climate conditions.

POM prohibitions are proposed to be introduced to any F-gas (listed in the F-gas proposal) unless all the by-products emissions are destructed. This measure is introduced to make sure that the high GWP by products (as the HFC-23) are taken into account.

So many men, so many minds

Undoubtfully, the proposed amendments initiated discussion on the feasibility of the proposed measures. European Fluorocarbon Technical Committee (EFCTC) expressed its disappointment with the provided amendments. According to Nick Campbell, who is the Chairman of EFCTC, “This report is disappointing in that it introduces further unnecessary bans as well as well accelerating the proposed bans” [3]. EFCTC also points out that The phase-down is too rapid for the industry to respond given the current availability of lower GWP alternatives, as sufficient time is needed for the commercialization of lower GHG products that meet the safety, economic and technical requirements [4].

Contrarily, Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) is concerned that a phase-down on its own, even if considerably tightened, will not provide operators and manufacturers with sufficient clarity for their investment decisions. “Those who oppose bans are ignoring the fact that they were essential tools used successfully in the phase-out of ozone-depleting substances across Europe”, said Tim Grabiel, EIA’s legal adviser on the EU F-Gas Regulation [5].

Chris Davies, a Member of European Parliament, takes a neutral position in the discussion. "We can endorse some of the rapporteur's proposals, while others go too far" [6], said he debating the Draft Report, which will be put on vote on June 19.

Still, it is uncertain what exactly will the final revision of the F-Gas Regulation include. Even if not yet certain, it already affects the decisions which are made in the refrigeration industry, and indicates how ambitious European Parliament in its goal to mitigate fluorinated greenhouse gases.

Works cited

[1]

Europen Commission, "Proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the council on fluorinated greenhouse gases," 4 November 2012. [Online]. Available: http://bit.ly/fgasproposal.

[2]

European Parliament, "Draft Report on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on fluorinated greenhouse gases," 01 March 2013. [Online]. Available: http://bit.ly/fgasdraftreport.

[3]

EFCTC, "EFCTC position on the draft report on the European Parliament and of the council on fluorinated gases," 12 March 2013. [Online]. Available: http://bit.ly/efctcpr.

[4]

EFCTC, "EFCTC POSITION ON THE REVISION OF THE F-GAS REGULATION," 12 03 2013. [Online]. Available: http://bit.ly/efctcposition.

[5]

EIA, "Euro Parliament report calls for widespread ban on HFCs," 6 March 2013. [Online]. Available: http://bit.ly/eiaopinion.

[6]

ENDS Europe, "How to phase down Fluorinated gases?," [Online]. Available: http://bit.ly/MEPsdebate.

Page responsible:bpalm@energy.kth.se
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Last changed: Oct 29, 2013