Following the recent global agreement on the phase-down of HFCs, key industry leaders see natural refrigerants as the next step.
Meeting chair Vincent Biruta (Rwandan Minister of Natural Resources). Credit: Klara Worth/IISD.
A wide range of HVAR&R industry players have welcomed the landmark HFC phase-down amendment to the Montreal Protocol adopted in Kigali, Rwanda, on 15 October as a concrete follow-up to the Paris accord addressing climate change.
But they are looking ahead to ensuring that HFC replacements will be energy efficient, and many see natural refrigerants as the next step for many applications.
Danish component maker Danfoss said it “applauds the negotiating parties of the Montreal Protocol and their accomplishment,” adding that Danfoss is “well positioned to help our customers transition to low-GWP refrigerants before the Montreal Protocol [HFC] phase-down deadlines.” The company, based in Nordborg, Denmark, pointed out that there are more than 7,000 ultra-low GWP CO2 refrigeration systems using Danfoss products in operation today.
“This is a great milestone which creates more certainty for industry,” said Jurgen Fischer, president of Danfoss Cooling.
But a major question still facing manufacturers is whether to push natural refrigerants over HFOs as an HFC alternative.
“We have to take a position and tell our customers what we think,” said Giovanni Dorin, marketing director for compressor maker Dorin. “We say that CO2 […] is the real solution” alongside hydrocarbons and ammonia for certain applications. HFOs, meanwhile, are little more than “a temporary alternative” to natural refrigerants.
For industrial applications, Eric Delforge, corporate business and policy officer at Mayekawa Europe, sees opportunities for natural refrigerants. “It will be a huge challenge for the chemical industry to penetrate into the industrial market with HFOs,” he said. “I’m confident that won’t materialize.”
“This is a great milestone which creates more certainty for industry.”
– Jurgen Fischer, Danfoss Cooling
The Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), based in Arlington, Va., also lauded the Kigali agreement. “While the freeze dates and step down levels are ambitious, the HVACR industry is confident we can meet them and continue to provide quality, innovative, energy efficient products and equipment for the benefit of the world’s citizens,” said AHRI President and CEO Stephen Yurek, who attended the Kigali meeting.
“The agreement is just the first step in a multi-step process,” Yurek continued. “Our industry is hard at work doing the research on the HFC alternatives that will be used in the world’s air conditioners, heat pumps, and refrigeration equipment, and getting that right is certainly as important as reaching agreement. Also very important are the education and training initiatives that will have to occur to ensure safe, efficient installation of the equipment that will contain these new refrigerants.”
Andrea Voigt, director of the European Partnership for Energy and the Environment (EPEE), which represents the heating, cooling, refrigeration and heat pump industry in Europe, called the Kigali amendment “a long-awaited breakthrough,” adding, “Now we have to make it happen, and ensure that energy efficiency is taken into consideration.”
According to Green Cooling, a U.K.-based engineering consultancy, "the fact is that natural refrigerants are inherently more energy efficient" than "synthetic refrigerant-based technology."
The HFCs specifically targeted by the Kigali amendment include the following: R134, R134a, R143, R245fa, R365mfc, R227ea, R236cb, R236ea, R236fa, R245ca, R43-10mee, R32, R125, R143a, R41, R152, R152a, R161 and R23. Some of HFCs are also the components of commonly used HFC blends like R404A and R410a, which are also covered under the amendment.
The amendment will take effect on 1 January 2019, if at least 20 countries have ratified it by that point, or on the 90th day after ratification.