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The Regulation on Fluorinated Gases (F-Gas Regulation) of the 2014 has introduced a series of measures to gradually reduce the consumption of HFCs of 80% (expressed in percentage terms of equivalent CO2) within the 2030.
This reduction is taking place in phases in which the quantities of HFCs released into the market are gradually reduced through the allocation of quotas by the European Commission to producers and importers of HFCs in bulk and a series of prohibitions affecting refrigeration and air conditioning applications .
Starting with 1 January 2020 the following prohibitions will come into effect:
- Supply of refrigerators and freezers for commercial use hermetically sealed that contain HFC with a GWP = or> to 2500
- Supply of fixed refrigeration equipment containing HFCs with a GWP = or> to 2500 (or whose operation depends on these HFCs), with the exception of equipment designed to cool products at temperatures below -50 ° C
- Assistance and maintenance interventions on HFC refrigeration systems with over 40 equivalent tons of CO2 (ie 10 kg of R404A / R507A) will no longer be subjected to intervention with virgin HFCs with GWP higher than 2500, with the exception of military equipment and / or designed to cool products at temperatures below -50 ° C.
The global warming potential (GWP, global warming potential) expresses the greenhouse effect (in 100 years) of a gas compared to CO2, whose reference potential is equal to 1.
The most currently used GWP = or> 2500 refrigerants are R404A and R507A, whose price has risen significantly in recent months.
It should also be borne in mind that from the 1 January 2022 the limit for the supply of hermetically sealed commercial refrigerators and freezers and centralized refrigeration systems with a nominal capacity equal to or greater than 40kW will be further reduced to GWP <150 (except in the primary cooling circuit of cascade systems in which fluorinated greenhouse gases can be used with GWP lower than 1500), while for plants under 40 kW the GWP limit <2500 will be maintained.
The effects of the F-Gas Regulation on the HVAC & R industry are therefore the gradual disappearance of high GWP HFCs from the refrigeration market and a growing diffusion of very low or zero GWP refrigerants, including natural refrigerants, such as CO2 and hydrocarbons, and HFO.
Regarding the maintenance of the systems currently in operation with R404A / R507A:
- in the case of small power plants with a refrigerant charge lower than 40 equivalent tons of CO2 (or about 10 kg of R404A / R507A) it is possible to continue as done so far, considering the critical issues highlighted above regarding availability and top refrigerant price;
- otherwise in all other cases after 1 January 2020 it will be necessary to intervene choosing between:
a) Replace equipment with new appliances that use natural refrigerants or other HFC refrigerant in compliance with the aforementioned limits;
b) Modify / adapt (where technically possible) the equipment for use with a new GWP refrigerant lower than 2500, proceeding to its complete replacement and disposal of the old one according to the terms of the law;
c) Keep the equipment running with assistance and maintenance only with regenerated refrigerant (the use of which will be allowed up to 31.12.2029).