UPDATE: Is this the end for R-134a in stand-alone refrigeration?

By Janaina Topley Lira, Sep 22, 2014, 17:52 2 minute reading

HFC134a could be prohibited in new stand-alone retail food refrigeration and vending machines as of 2016 according to a US EPA proposed rule, a timeline that was very much debated during a 27 August 2014 public hearing organised by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). UPDATE: The deadline for providing comments to the EPA has been extended by 2 weeks, until 20 October.

The proposed rule could prohibit the use of some high-GWP HFCs in certain applications where low-GWP refrigerants are available and already in use. The applications covered include motor vehicle air conditioning (MVAC), as well as stand-alone and commercial refrigeration systems. The focus of considerable debate at the EPA public hearing organised on this issue was the proposal to disallow the use of R134a in new stand-alone refrigeration and vending machines as of 2016.

Timeline to be based on either the leaders...

Several chemical refrigerant manufacturers and environmental organisations present at the hearing supported the proposed ruling, arguing that alternatives to R134a are already available, and that the scope of the proposal is appropriate and reflects changes that are already occurring. Environmental organisations encouraged the US EPA to go further both in terms of accelerating the timing for the case of MVAC and addressing additional end uses where alternatives have been developed. Not only does the rule put into practice President Obama's Climate Action Plan by preventing a projected 31-42 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MMTCO2eq) in 2020, but it also provides a much needed investment signal to the industry.

...or the laggards?

On the other hand, several manufacturers that are not using alternatives present at the hearing argued for an extension of the deadline from 2016 to 2020 or perhaps even 2025, to allow them sufficient time to adapt their products and bring them to market. Some even suggested the proposal be withdrawn. Concerns were voiced regarding the flammability, high pressure and energy performance of several of the alternatives, the same dire warnings heard in the past about the effect on industry during the phase out of CFCs and HCFCs.

Comments on proposed rule due by 20 October 2014

In addition to the public hearing the US EPA is accepting comments on the proposal until 20 October 2014 (extended by 2 weeks from the original deadline).
 
Background: proposed rule to affect commercial refrigeration by 2016

When it comes to commercial refrigeration, the proposed action would change the status of these high-GWP HFCs to “unacceptable” in the following end-uses as of 2016:

  • New stand-alone / self-contained refrigeration equipment and vending machines – R134a, R404A, R407A, R407C, R507A, other blends
  • Retrofit stand-alone / self-contained refrigeration equipment and vending machines - R404A and R507A
  • New and retrofitted commercial refrigeration systems - R227ea, R407B, R421B, R422A, R422C, R422D, R428A and R434A

In addition, for the case of motor vehicle air conditioning systems in newly manufactured light-duty vehicles, the US EPA is proposing to list HFC134a as unacceptable starting with model year 2021.

MORE INFORMATION

By Janaina Topley Lira

Sep 22, 2014, 17:52




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