Association calls 2011 HFC ban impractical

The HVCA has hit out at proposals that could ban hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) use in refrigerants by 2011.

A position paper on the phase-out of the use of refrigerants containing hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) – which can, potentially, contribute to global warming – has been developed by the HVCA Refrigeration and Air Conditioning (RAC) Group.

It believes that for the foreseeable future HFCs have a vital role to play in helping users to make the transition from ozone-depleting refrigerant gases (such as the hydrochlorfluorocarbon (HCFC)-based R22, which is already the subject of a phase-out programme owing to its ozone-depleting potential) to more environmentally benign alternatives.

To consider banning HFC use as early as 2011, as part of a scheduled review of the European F-Gas Regulation, is entirely impractical in that it would require wholesale plant replacement programmes which end users simply could not afford to carry out, the RAC Group insists.

“As things stand, HFCs remain the most energy-efficient choice for many applications – for example, in most small to medium-sized air conditioning systems,” the position paper argues.

“Refrigerants are currently responsible for just 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions – and some 75% of that figure is accounted for by vehicle air conditioning.

“In ten years’ time, when the motor industry has met its phase-out target, HFCs will account for less than 0.5% of greenhouse gas emissions.”

The position paper states that it is a key objective of all members of the RAC Group to deliver to their clients the best possible system performance at the lowest possible cost in terms of energy use.

To do so, they regularly design and install systems that make use of refrigerants based on ammonia, carbon dioxide and hydrocarbons, in addition to those based on HFCs.

The paper also makes clear that the refrigeration and air conditioning sector could already operate without HFCs, and it is inevitable that, in the fullness of time, HFCs will be superseded – as has already happened to chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and is now happening to HCFCs.

To that extent, the RAC Group is in sympathy with the aspirations of the environmental lobby in terms of the eventual phase-out of HFCs.

Meanwhile the refrigeration and air conditioning sector is putting its own house in order so as to minimise the environmental impact of continued HFC use.

It has embraced the European F-Gas Regulation and encouraged government to enforce it rigorously, so that professional standards are raised and refrigerant leakage brought under control.

It is developing further best practice guidance that goes far beyond the mandatory requirements.

And it has pledged its wholehearted support to the imposition of a tax on HFCs to discourage waste.

“By 2011, the F Gas Regulation will have been in place for only 18 months. This is not a very long period during which to ascertain whether it is having the desired effect, especially in terms of significant reduction in refrigerant leakage,” the position paper points out.

The HVCA and the RAC Group are therefore urging the European powers-that-be to approach the review process with an open mind – and to consider very carefully the relative pros and cons before rushing to judgement on the HFC issue.