Europe’s leading manufactures of natural-refrigerant-based systems are calling for greater ambition in the European Commission’s (EC) recently proposed revisions for the EU F-gas Regulation, suggesting stricter GWP limits, product bans and compensation for environmental damage.

The EU F-gas Regulation proposal, which was released on April 5, will accelerate Europe’s HFC phase-down from 2024, with the aim of reducing HFC use by 97.6% by 2048, based on 2015 levels. Previous iterations of the regulation had an 80% reduction target over the same period. This revision will fully align the EU’s HFC phase-down with the Montreal Protocol. It will also open doors to further adoption of natural refrigerants such as CO2 (R744), ammonia/NH3 (R717) and hydrocarbons.

Limiting refrigerants with high GWPs

While the proposed revisions include new restrictions on certain refrigerants and equipment, for example banning split air-conditioning and heat pump equipment with a capacity of more than 12kW (3.4TR) that use f-gases with a GWP of 750 or higher, some manufacturers don’t think the EU F-gas Regulation proposal goes far enough. 

According to Andreas Meier, Managing Director of German OEM TEKO, the regulation “should be more ambitious with restrictions on refrigerant GWP.” He added, “If it’s above 50 or above 10 [GWP], just leave it out.”

Meier’s remarks came during an interview with ATMOsphere Founder and CEO Marc Chasserot at the ATMO World Summit on March 30, ahead of the release of the EU F-gas Regulation proposal. When asked about the impending revisions, Meier pointed out that “European manufacturers are leading in natural refrigerants, so why would we want to take this strong argument away?”

Joachim Schadt, General Manager of German chiller manufacturer Secon, echoed Meier’s sentiment, stating that “the rapid transmission to natural refrigerants is not only a necessity in terms of climate policy, but also offers the EU economic region an excellent opportunity to secure its prosperity.” 

“I would like to see deletion of all exemptions for which there are demonstrably already marketable solutions with natural refrigerants,” continued Schadt. “Companies like ours are already demonstrating that natural refrigerants can be used safely and efficiently in almost any refrigeration application.”

I would like to see deletion of all exemptions for which there are demonstrably already marketable solutions with natural refrigerants.”

Joachim Schadt, Secon

TEKO’s Meier also believes there’s a need for stronger deterrents to high-GWP refrigerants, such as bans or taxation. While recognizing that the latter falls under national and not EU-level jurisdiction, Meier expressed concern that without such action, there will be no meaningful change. An example of such a tax can be found in Denmark.

Schadt echoed Meier’s call for stricter control on f-gases in the EU F-gas Regulation, stating that “there’s no substitute for bans, as the illegal trade in refrigerants has already thwarted the current F-gas Regulation.” While not being a particularly strong advocate of such an approach, Schadt says he sees “no other way forward, as we have unfortunately already lost far too much time in mitigating the effects of the climate crisis.”

In addition to bans, Schadt has expressed an interest in legislation that “obliges the producers of refrigerants to pay in full for all environmental damage that is already demonstrably known today or for which there is already a reasonable suspicion.”

The only way is natural

While many are proposing HFOs as an interim lower-GWP solution to aid the HFC phase-down, neither Schadt nor Meier support this approach. 

“The exclusive consideration of GWP values is in any case a misguided approach,” said Schadt. “This has already led to a shift towards refrigerants [like HFOs], which will cause even greater and more far-reaching environmental damage,” he continued. 

During his ATMO World Summit interview, Meier expressed the view that aside from price – when compared to some other lower-GWP refrigerants – he sees very few other benefits to the adoption of HFOs.

On the topic of HFOs, Schadt voiced the opinion that while this issue does not belong in the F-gas Regulation, the potential impacts of  TFA – a by-product of some HFOs, HFCs and HCFCs – would require HFOs to be included in the EU’s REACH Regulation, which works to protect human health and the environment from chemicals.

Other voices from around the industry

In addition to manufacturers, many other HVAC&R stakeholders have been expressing their views on the EU F-gas Regulation proposal since its release last month. 

Many NGOs have warned that the proposal risks undermining Europe’s efforts to meet important climate goals, while trade groups have voiced concerns that the proposed changes are too restrictive and threaten the competitiveness of European manufacturers.

Some retailers like METRO believe the availability of transcritical technology across Europe negates the need for higher-GWP refrigerants like HFCs. Olaf Schulze, Director of Energy Management at METRO Properties, has also emphasized that new equipment, both in industrial refrigeration and HVAC, should only include natural refrigerants. He added,  “HFOs should also come under ban.”

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