green cooling initiative: Best practice: EU regulation

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Best Practice: EU regulation

In order to fulfill its CO2 reduction commitment under the Kyoto protocol, the EU has adopted two directives dealing with fluorinated refrigerants. As Europe is a big market, changes introduced are expected to have a trickle-down effect in other markets. Other countries might also take EU legislation as example for their own laws.

European F-gas regulation

The F-gas regulation was introduced with the aim of reducing emissions from regular leaks, during servicing and at the end of life of appliances by monitoring fluorinated gases and determining more rigorous servicing and refrigerant recovery rules. However, because of the growth of the RAC sectors and the accompanying increase in refrigerant use, emissions of F-gases did not decrease sufficiently enough for effective climate protection.

At the end of 2013, a review of the F-gas regulation was published, which comes into effect in 2015. The F-gas regulation now includes a phase-down of F-gases to 21% of the current use by 2030. This reduction is based on tonnes of CO2 equivalents, which are calculated by multiplying the global warming potential (GWP) with the amount of F-gas. This means, that if only refrigerants with a low enough GWP are used, the amount of refrigerant can stay the same. Additionally to the phase-down, the F-gas regulation specifies some bans of F-gases with GWPs above 2500 and F-gases above a certain GWP level for some appliances. These are usually appliances where low GWP solutions are already commercially available or the environmental impact of leaking refrigerant is especially high. Examples are the ban of F-gases with GWPs higher than 150 in the RAC subsector domestic refrigeration.

The main points of the new F-gas regulation are:

  • Cap and phase-down of the market introduction (“placing on the market”) of HFCs to 21% of current levels. F-gas quotas will be distributed among F-gas producers and distributers.
  • The phase-down based on the GWP and a ban on refrigerants with a GWP above 2500 for servicing and maintenance as well as in stationary refrigeration equipment by 2020 effectively bans the widely used HFC-404a in new equipment from now on.
  • Bans or restrictions (based on GWP) of the use of F-gases in some new equipment, such as refrigerators and air conditioners, insulating foams and technical aerosols.
  • Conditions on the market introduction of products and equipment containing or relying upon F-gases. Examples are reporting on quantities of HFCs contained and the need for HFC import quotas. Compared to the 2006 F-Gas Regulation, transport refrigeration and electric switchgear are now also included in this section.
  • Future restrictions on servicing/maintenance of equipment using HFCs
  • Rules regarding the containment, use, recovery and destruction of HFCs

Some of the effects on the RAC sector:

  • Refrigerants with high GWP will become more expensive in Europe. The additional costs are estimated to reach around 30 to 35 Euro/t CO2.
  • Companies that are selling pre-filled equipment in Europe will have to find a refrigerant supplier in Europe that has applied for a quota and label the equipment accordingly.
  • Alternatives for equipment using HFC-404a will have to be developed fast. The phase down based on GWP and the subsequent ban on refrigerants with GWP above 2500 by 2020 means that a different refrigerant will have to be considered for equipment with a lifetime of longer than six years.

Mobile air conditioning (MAC) directive

The MAC directive limits the GWP of refrigerants in passenger car mobile air conditioners (MAC) to 150. The MAC refrigerant currently used is HFC-134a with a GWP of 1430, and therefore has to be replaced. As the car industry has always favoured a single refrigerant solution globally, this is likely to have implications for MAC systems everywhere. Most car companies have announced the use of the unsaturated HFC-1234yf, but a few German car manufacturers have decided to use CO2 as a refrigerant after crash tests showed u-HFC-1234yf to ignite and produce the dangerous gas hydrogen fluoride (HF).

Find out more about the benefits of phasing out HFCs and moving to green cooling technologies