Phasing Out HFC Refrigerants

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has prohibited vending machines and convenient stores from having R-404a systems.

The latest Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) report from the EPA is on alternative refrigerants as acceptable or unacceptable for different sectors in the refrigeration industry. Some common refrigerants, including R-404A and R-507C, are now listed as an unacceptable alternate for most applications. Effective immediately vending machines and convenient stores are prohibited from using R-404a in those systems.

In alliance with the Montreal Protocol, refrigerant production levels of listed unacceptable refrigerants will decrease over the next 20 years. While each refrigerant manufacturer may speed up the dates on production levels, these are the recommended dates and values as specified by the EPA SNAP program and Montreal Protocol:

2013: Production levels frozen
2014: Product refrigerant reduced to 2010 baseline standards
2015: 10% reduction in production with new equipment for cold storage warehoused and industrial process refrigeration still being accepted
2019: Beginning Jan. 1, no new equipment can be charged with new refrigerant, but new refrigerant is still available for service on existing systems
2020: 35% reduction in production with no newly charged equipment available and new and recycled refrigerant available for service only on existing systems
2025: 79% reduction in production and systems available for service only
2030: No new production available

There is currently no replacement for R-404a. Recommended alternate refrigerants include R-407a, R-407b, and R-744 (CO2) per the SNAP program. Given the components used for the R-404a and R-507 may not be compatible with the accepted alternate refrigerants, these options will more than likely be eliminated; therefore, it’s unlikely a true replacement will be developed.

Although the aforementioned dates are fluid as various petitions are being presented to the EPA for extensions, refrigerant should be available the life of current equipment utilizing R-404a.

Since 2010, the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) has been proactive in phasing out harmful HFC refrigerants. As of last month, CGF announced the success of tackling the climate impact of the refrigeration systems used by members releasing HFCs, which are 1,400 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. This includes the installation of low carbon refrigeration systems in supermarkets, ice cream chiller units, drink chiller units, and industrial plants worldwide. The Sustainability Steering Committee has been called into action on a potential resolution on scaling up low carbon refrigeration in the industry for the future.

Additional information on HFC refrigerants can be found at www.epa.gov/snap

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