Industry needs to get act together on F-Gas

The whole cooling supply chain needs to take more action more quickly if the industry is to head off a supply and demand crisis over the upcoming F-Gas phase downs.

The whole cooling supply chain from refrigerant suppliers down to end user customers needs to take more action more quickly if the industry is to head off a supply and demand crisis over the upcoming F-Gas phase downs.

That is the message from RAC’s Retail Question Time, where experts warned again that dramatic drops in the European quota of HFCs refrigerant in the next five years would catch the UK industry out, if they did not carefully plan moves towards lower-GWP refrigerants.

Consultant Ray Gluckman, who has worked with industry body Epee on modelling likely scenarios across Europe over the next five years stressed that the industry shouldn’t ‘sit back and wait for the bans’ but should be proactive.

He said: “The forecast is feasible but challenging – and we need lots of different stakeholders to be taking action. The early signs are that not enough of the people on the list of stakeholders are taking action. “

The fact that the Epee list effectively leaves details the whole of the cooling industry – end users; contractors; manufacturers and suppliers; the refrigerant supply chain for recovery and reclaim; and the bodies who will train and create the standards – underlines how the supply chain will need to work together.

And, Mr Gluckman added, it requires action across Europe. He said: “This is Europe wide and the UK has no particular right to that refrigerant if other countries are willing to pay more, so we need those actions in every country. That is one of the things that worries me the most.

He reiterated that the moves away from higher-GWP refrigerant needed to take place sooner rather than the later, and that companies should not use the dates of F-Gas bans as exit dates.

He said: “For instance the ban date of 2020 for new equipment with high GWP gas hides the fact that there is also a service ban, and more importantly it hides the fact that there is a 44 per cent cut in quota in 2018. The bans shouldn’t distract us from that.”

He said the supermarkets were showing good progress in moving towards CO2 and HFOs for new equipment, but stressed that other measures needed to be part of the package of measures.

“We need lot of retrofitting [of R404A] in supermarket and industrial applications and we still need more efforts to reduce leakage. As far as retrofit is concerned, we are assuming that about half of all supermarket packs will be retrofitted by 2018. That, incidentally, is the measure that scares me the most.

The other thing we need to have is an established reclaim market. In the UK we have good facilities for reclaim but the question will be whether there is enough of the reclaimed gas in all parts of Europe.”

“With leakage … by 2018 we will ideally need the whole commercial refrigeration sector to have got its leak rate down to under 10 per cent. And that is across Europe so that is quite a challenge.”

The need for urgency was echoed by retail consultant Daniel Clark. He said: “I think we in the ‘top reaches’ of the industry have a real role to play in telling everyone else – the people with the condensing units and in the small factories – how aggressive the regulations are going to be.

I think we have been lulled into a false sense of security by the fact that gas is still available. There is probably a good argument for retrofitting to a GWP under 2500 sooner rather than later, because it is only going to become more expensive.”

At the same time, retailers called on manufacturers to work to scale down natural refrigeration technology to a cost effective level for convenience formats.

Co-operative Group refrigeration improvement planning manager Adrian Crowther said: “I think we need the support of the industry as a whole to get that scalability.

I think if we can achieve that cost neutral scenario we are going to be in a better place – certainly there is a lot of resistance in the development and delivery teams to implementing what I believe is the right technical solution purely because of the cost.

Source RAC Plus